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Lawmaker drops bombshell: North Korea may have nuclear missiles

Lawmaker drops bombshell: North Korea may have nuclear missiles

By Anna Mulrine, Staff writer

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey testified on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense Department’s fiscal 2014 budget request. He was also asked about the situation in North Korea.

The results of a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report indicate that “North Korea now has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles.”

That was the bombshell out of a House Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday.

It came when Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) of Colorado began quoting from what he said was an unclassified version of the DIA report, which has not yet been made public.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nation’s top military officer, appeared caught off-guard. The Pentagon has in recent days sought to strike a balance between words of warning to the North and attempts to calm the situation. General Dempsey’s reaction suggested that he was not pleased to have the DIA assessment made public, as it could further stoke anxieties over what is already a enormously tense international standoff.

Representative Lamborn read from the report toward the end of a defense budget hearing.

“They say, ‘DIA assess with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles. However, the reliability will be low.’ General, would you agree with that assessment by DIA?” he asked


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“I can’t touch that one,” Dempsey answered.

The problem was that the report hasn’t been released, he said. “Some of it’s classified, some of it’s unclassified.”

Lamborn tried asking the question again, heedless of the sensitivity of the topic. “This is public; this is unclassified, so I can make it public.”

“And your question is do I agree with the DIA’s assessment?” Dempsey repeated.

“Yes,” Lamborn responded.

“Well,” Dempsey answered, “You said it’s not publicly released, so I choose not to comment on it.”

Only a day ago, Dempsey told reporters during a Pentagon briefing that “the proximity of the North Koreans to achieving a miniaturization of a nuclear device on a ballistic missile … is a classified matter.”

If North Korea does have nuclear-armed missiles, it could strike South Korea, Japan, or US forces in Japan. It could perhaps also hit Guam, but Hawaii and the mainland US are out of the North’s missile range, according to US intelligence estimates.

North Korea is expected to launch a missile soon as a show of defiance against the West. The administration said Thursday there is no indication that the missiles readied for launch are nuclear-armed, media reports said.

The exchange between Lamborn and Dempsey was not the only enlightening information about North Korea to emerge from Capitol HIll Thursday. At a different hearing, senior US intelligence officials were sharing some of the most telling details yet to emerge about the personality and motivations of the North’s new young leader, Kim Jong-un.

hey speculated on what, precisely, Mr. Kim’s reasons might be for what has largely been seen as a reckless ratcheting up of tensions in the region – behavior, officials divulged, that appears to be exasperating even Kim’s closest ally, China.

It seems, for starters, that Kim does not have a great deal of emotional intelligence, US officials indicated during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

“Unlike his father, I think he’s underestimating the Chinese frustration with him and their discomfiture with his behavior,” said James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

“He impresses me as impetuous – not as inhibited as his father became about taking aggressive action,” he added. “The pattern with his father was to be provocative and then to sort of back off. We haven’t seen that yet with Kim.”

Kim spent his period of grieving for his father – “to the extent that he had [a grieving period],” Mr. Clapper observed – with officials from North Korea’s military and security services.

“So, clearly they have influenced him” in some of his aggressive posturing of late.

But though his father has passed away, family does continue to influence him, often for the better. “I do think that his uncle and his aunt do have some tempering influence on him,” Clapper said.

So, too, does the time he spent in the West, attending school in Switzerland.

“I found it very interesting that the minister of economics that he just appointed was someone who was purged in 2007 for apparently being too capitalist-minded,” he added. “So clearly he does recognize, since he’s spent time in the West … that economically North Korea is in an extremis situation. So it will be interesting to see how this plays out – if the new economics minister avoids another purge.”

As far as Kim’s intentions regarding his bellicose actions? “I think his primary objective is to consolidate, affirm his power. And much of the rhetoric – in fact, all of the belligerent rhetoric of late, I think – is designed for both an internal and an external audience,” Clapper added. “But I think first and foremost it’s to show that he is firmly in control in North Korea.”

So, does Kim have an endgame in mind, one lawmaker wanted to know.

“I don’t think, really, he has much of an endgame other than to somehow elicit recognition from the world – and specifically, most importantly, the United States – of North Korea as a rival on an international scene, as a nuclear power, and that entitles him to negotiation and to accommodation and, presumably, for aid,” Clapper said.

The bottom line is that “Kim Jong-un has not been in power all that long, so we don’t have an extended track record for him like we did with his father and grandfather,” said John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who also testified before the committee.

“And that’s why we are watching this very closely to see whether or not what he is doing is consistent with past patterns of North Korean behavior.”

What does seem clear, officials told lawmakers, is that Kim does not appear to have the restraint his father had.

“Clearly, he’s off-pattern with his father,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R) of Michigan, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, observed. “Even folks who specialize in the region say this: ‘If you’re ever going to be concerned, this is the time to be concerned.’ I’m just curious as to your assessment.”

“Well,” Clapper responded, “I agree with you.”SOURCE

‘Whale war’ kicks off as Japan sends strengthened fleet to Antarctica

‘Whale war’ kicks off as Japan sends strengthened fleet to Antarctica

As the Steve Irwin approached the equator last week, word that Japan would be sending a strengthened whaling fleet to Antarctica next month reached the bridge of the old Aberdeen-built customs vessel. The crew of activists on board cheered, as their veteran leader, Captain Paul Watson, resigned himself to his eighth “whale war” among the icebergs and 100mph winds of the Southern ocean.

Captain Paul Watson gives the Guardian’s environment editor John Vidal a tour of the Steve Irwin Link to this audio

Watson, on what is nearly his 350th voyage in nearly 40 years defending whales and other marine wildlife at the helm of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is sending three ships to intercept, chase and harass the Japanese. He promises “aggressive non-violence”, while the Japanese, still smarting from last year’s humiliation when their fleet took only a fifth of its planned whale catch, say they will heighten security and take an armed government fisheries patrol vessel.

“We intend to carry out the [whale] research after enhancing measures to assure that the fleet is not obstructed,
” said fisheries minister, Michihiko Kano.

The two fleets expect to meet in the Antarctic whale sanctuary before Christmas and will shadow and confront each other for at least 12 weeks. Both have helicopters and water cannon. In addition, the Steve Irwin has iron spikes to prevent the Japanese from boarding, and Watson’s crew has a store of vile-smelling butyric acid stink bombs to fling aboard any vessel that comes close. Both fleets are expected to wage a media and diplomatic battle, as well as engage in a dangerous physical tussle on the high seas.

But it was Australia, which fired the first diplomatic shots, this week condemning Japan and urging it not to send its fleet. “There is widespread concern in the international community at Japan’s whaling programme and widespread calls for it to cease”, said foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, this week. Australia last year took Japan to the international court of justice seeking an end to the harpooning which it conducts under a “scientific” loophole.

Few people realise, said Watson in London before setting off for the Antarctic, how dirty this old-fashioned sea war can get, with hand-to-hand combat, collisions, bombardments and sinkings. “Some of the scenes look like out of world war two. There are a lot of ships at sea, seven or eight at a time, water cannons going … We get help finding them [the whaling vessels]. Tourist ships and fishing boats, research stations give us their co-ordinates.”

Although he is on Interpol’s wanted list and is classed as an eco-terrorist in Japan, Watson says he has been on the side of the law since he was first mate on the first Greenpeace voyages of the early 1970s. “We don’t protest, we intervene. We are not there to witness but to stop crimes being committed,” he says. “They call me a pirate but what is a pirate? Drake and Raleigh were pirates. John Paul Jones, who started the US and the Russian navies, was a pirate. Pirates challenge the status quo.”

Watson, for years little known in Europe, has recently become a star of Discovery Channel reality TV programme Whale Wars. Although the show has been criticised for being more showbusiness than documentary, the TV exposure has tripled the group’s membership and income.

But Watson has his critics. He was savagely satirised in the South Park animation Whale Whores for being media-hungry, and a long-standing row with Greenpeace has resulted in the two organisations not talking to each other.

“[Greenpeace’s international executive director Kumi Naidoo] should be running the Red Cross. He’s not an environmentalist. He’s an anti-apartheid organiser who has stated that the only way to save the planet is through alleviating world poverty. It can’t be done. There are just not enough resources. Why does he want to do the job of Oxfam or the Red Cross? Greenpeace seems to have lost their direction,” says Watson.

Watson is a confirmed “biocentrist” who believes worms and cockroaches are more important than humans. “I say look at earth as a spaceship travelling at 500km a second. Our life support system is the biosphere. It provides the air and temperature, and it’s run by a crew, not us. We are just passengers, busy entertaining ourselves, but the crew are the bacteria, the worms and the fish we are killing off. There’s only so many crew we can kill before things fall apart. They are more important than we are. If the fish die the ocean dies and if the ocean dies we die. We cannot live without them. I measure intelligence by the ability to live in harmony with the natural world and by that criteria cockroaches are more intelligent than we are.”

Too many humans, he says, is by far the greatest problem facing earth. “Earth can probably only carry one billion humans. As long as human populations continue growing, the battle [to save the planet] will be lost.

“One of two things will happen. Some incredibly imaginative, intelligent person will come along or planet Earth will take care of it for us. The reason we had great age of affluence is we had four continents to exploit. But we have now far exceeded earth’s carrying capacity which is why we’re in the middle of this major extinction. There will inevitably be a resource crash, but we are in denial about it.”

There’s a waiting list of thousands from dozens of countries wanting to sail with Watson, who prides himself on never having caused or sustained an injury in his 34 years of taking amateurs to sea in often dangerous situations.

“Because our crew are amateurs and not professional there’s much more precaution taken in everything we do. Sometimes professionals get themselves into trouble because they take things for granted.

“Passion is the most important thing.”

SOURCE

Sumimasen!….John wo sagashite imasu. Tasukete! Dareka eigo o hanasemasuka?

Medical masks become new trend for shy Japanese teenagers

A growing number of Japanese teenagers are obsessively hiding their faces behind white medical masks, experts have warned.

Japanese students wear medial masks: Medical masks become new trend for shy Japanese teenagers

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The culture of wearing disposable facemasks to help prevent the spreading of flu germs is widespread in Japan Photo: GETTY
By Danielle Demetriou in Tokyo 7:00AM GMT 28 Jan 2011

The culture of wearing disposable facemasks to help prevent the spreading of flu germs is widespread among Japanese commuters and office workers, particularly during the winter months. You’re bound to find a pharmacy exhibiting the kn95 mask for sale in all prefectures and precincts of Japan.

However, a growing number of teenagers are wearing the cotton masks, some from the moment they awake until they go to bed, sparking concerns that they are using them in order to retreat from society.

Don’t be the last one in your school without one!

Yohei Harada, an analyst specialising in youth trends at Hakuhodo Inc, the advertising agency, told the Telegraph: ““A few years ago, very few teenagers wore masks. But many wear them today and the numbers are increasingly very rapidly.

The Japanese are always ahead of a trend

”The reason is that these teenagers are looking for something to hide behind. They are constantly having to communicate with friends via SMS and emails and this is making them so tired that it is a relief to wear a masks. It is a way to hide their feelings.”

The streets of Harajuku, a colourful mecca for young teenagers in central Tokyo, are filled daily with crowds of young teenagers accessorising their fashionable fur jackets and boots with white face masks.

The climate of political flux, economic instability and the absence of jobs for life in Japan are further factors believed to be fuelling social insecurities among teenagers.

One such example is a 15-year-old schoolboy so obsessed with his mask that he only takes it off to catch his breath after running in PE. “All I can say is that it somehow calms me down,” he told the Asahi newspaper.