North Korea threatens with “new form” of nuclear test
Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times – March 30, 2014
North Korea threatened on Sunday to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test– a year after its 3rd nuclear test raised military tensions on the Korean peninsula and prompted the U.N. to tighten sanctions against the regime. The North’s Foreign Ministry did not clarify what it meant by “new form”, but Washington and allies have long suspected the country of trying to make nuclear devices small and sophisticated enough to be delivered on ICBMs it was developing. North Korea later told South Korea that it will carry out live fire military drills on Monday near the rivals’ disputed western sea border. Firing rockets near the disputed waters is nothing unusual for North Korea, but its planned drills on Monday came a day after the Foreign Ministry warned its military would conduct exercises to improve its ability to attack mid- and long-range targets with “more diversified nuclear deterrence” and “with a variety of striking power.” The South Korean military warned that it would severely retaliate if the North fired south of the disputed border.
North and South Korea exchange artillery rounds
Jack Kim, Reuters – March 31, 2014
North Korea fired more than 100 artillery rounds (out of 500) into South Korean waters as part of a drill on Monday, prompting the South to respond and fire back more than 300 rounds. Seoul also scrambled F-15s on its side of the maritime border. “We believe the North’s maritime firing is a planned provocation and attempt to test our military’s determination to defend the Northern Limit Line and get an upper hand in relations,” said South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman. The exercise seemed to be more like saber-rattling from Pyongyang rather than the start of a military standoff. The North accused the South of “gangster-like” behavior during the weekend for “abducting” one of its fishing boats and threatened to retaliate. The South said it sent the boat back after it drifted into its waters. Defense Secretary Hagel said he would raise U.S. concerns about the North’s behavior during a trip to China next week.
South Korea proposes aid if North halts nuclear arms program
Jack Kim, Reuters – March 28, 2014
South Korean President Park Geun-hye proposed a broad range of economic aid for impoverished North Korea on Friday if it agreed to give up its nuclear program. It was not clear how the North will respond to the proposal, but it has repeatedly rejected the idea of abandoning its nuclear program as it says it is a necessary deterrent against U.S. hostility. Park said during a speech in Berlin that the two Koreas must put confrontation behind them and start the work of preparing for unification. She also offered to help develop the North’s economy, agriculture and social infrastructure. On Thursday, one day before Geun-hye’s speech, the North ridiculed her commentary at the nuclear security summit at The Hague saying there will be “no unilateral denuclearization by the north under any circumstances…she had better not even dream about it.”
Obama reassures Saudi Arabia over Iran and Syria
Jeff Mason and Steve Holland, Reuters – March 28, 2014
President Obama sought to assure Saudi King Abdullah that he would support moderate Syrian rebels and reject a bad nuclear deal with Iran during a visit to the kingdom. Obama underscored the importance of Washington’s relationships with the world’s largest oil exporter in the 2 hour meeting that focused on the Middle East but apparently did not cover energy or human rights issues. “I think it was important to have to chance to come look him (King Abdullah) in the eye and explain how determined the president is to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” said a U.S. official. The leaders also discussed Syria where they shared the objective of a political transition and supporting moderate opposition to Assad.
Russia prepares for “nuclear war”
Global Security Newswire – March 28, 2014
On Thursday, Russia began drilling for nuclear war in a massive 3-day exercise it asserts was planned months ago. Approximately 10,000 military personnel were expected to participate in the maneuvers, which were intended as practice for a large-scale nuclear offensive. Troops were expected to conduct surveillance for chemical, biological and radiological threats, as well as identify and stop conventional efforts to thwart the offensive. In the meantime, U.S. government insiders have reported Russia has positioned soldiers and other assets to potentially support a new push into Ukraine. Moscow insisted it was only conducting practice maneuvers but the moves heightened Western suspicions.