Friday, 20 April 2012

North Korea condemned for a failed satellite launch while Pakistan, India & South Korea had few critics

Pakistan follows India with missile test

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan showcased its ballistic missile capability yesterday with a successful test launch, six days after India announced a breakthrough in its missile programme.

But in an indication of how much the political mood in each country has changed over the past decade, there was little reaction across the border in India, amid recent moves to develop closer ties.

Pakistan fired the Hatf IV Shaheen-1A (picture), an upgraded ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, into the sea, the military said.

It was described as an intermediate-range missile having a longer range than its predecessor, the Shaheen-1, which is believed to fly up to 750km.

"The improved version of Shaheen-1A will further consolidate and strengthen Pakistan's deterrence abilities," said Lieutenant-General Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, who witnessed the launch and is responsible for the country's nuclear programme.

Intermediate-range ballistic missiles have a range of 3,000kg to 5,000km, according to the website GlobalSecurity.org.

If the Shaheen-1A is indeed an intermediate-range missile, it would represent a quantum leap from the previous version. Pakistan's longest range missile before yesterday's launch was believed to be the Shaheen II, with a range of 2,000km - far enough to hit targets anywhere in India.

"This is not just a coincidence coming after the India test," said Mr Gareth Price, London-based head of the Asia programme at foreign affairs institute Chatham House. "There has been a big increase in India's defence spending and this is Pakistan's way of saying we are not that far behind."

Last year, American intelligence assessments concluded that Pakistan has expanded its nuclear arsenal in recent years, putting it on a path to overtake Britain as the world's fifth largest nuclear weapons power.

But Mr Mansoor Ahmed, a defence analyst based in Islamabad, said: "Pakistan is only concerned with maintaining a minimum credible deterrent capability vis-à-vis India and does not harbour regional or global ambitions."

Last Thursday, India launched its Agni-V missile with a range of 5,000km, for the first time taking the country a step closer to joining an exclusive club of five nations known to possess intercontinental ballistic weapons and allowing it to target parts of northern China previously beyond its capability.

India is ramping up defence spending while seeking to resolve territorial disputes through talks with its arch rivals in the region. India briefly went to war with China in 1962, while it has clashed with Pakistan at least three times.

But relations between India and Pakistan have warmed somewhat over the last year, raising hopes for further reconciliation.

Earlier this month, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met in New Delhi and pledged to increase trade ties and cooperation against terrorism. There has even been speculation that India may approve cross-border petrol exports and a liberalisation of visa restrictions. Agencies

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Indian long-range missile test has few critics


NEW DELHI - India's successful test yesterday of a powerful new missile that can carry nuclear weapons to Beijing caused barely a ripple - even in China - just days after North Korea was globally vilified for its own failed rocket launch.
The vastly different responses show the world has grown to accept India as a responsible and stable nuclear power, while shunning North Korea as a pariah.

"It's not the spear, but who holds the spear that matters," said Mr Rahul Bedi, a defence analyst in India. "North Korea is a condemned nation. It's a pariah country. Its record of breaking nuclear agreements is well known. India has emerged in that sense as a fairly responsible country."

India hailed its test of the Agni-V missile as a significant step forward in its aspirations to become a regional and world power. "The nation stands tall today," Defence Minister A K Antony said, according to the Press Trust of India.

The missile, with a range of 5,000km, still requires a battery of tests and must clear other bureaucratic hurdles before it can be inducted into India's arsenal in a few years.

The Agni-V is a solid-fuel, three-stage missile designed to carry a 1.5-tonne nuclear warhead. It stands 17.5m tall, has a launch weight of 50 tonnes and was built mainly with Indian-made technology at a reported cost of 25 billion rupees (S$601 million ). It can be moved across the country by road or rail and can be used to carry multiple warheads or to launch satellites into orbit.

International concerns were muted following the launch. In 1974, after India tested its first nuclear bomb, the United States put it under sanctions for a quarter century. But last decade, the US removed the sanctions and eventually ratified in 2008 a landmark deal to allow civilian nuclear trade that effectively accepted India as a nuclear nation.

China, with the most at stake from the launch, declined to discuss it. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said only that India and China should work together as strategic partners and "grasp opportunities to further develop relations".

China remains far ahead of India in the missile race, with intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching anywhere in India. The longest-range Indian missile currently, the Agni-III, has a range of 3,500km and falls short of many major Chinese cities.

India's arch rival Pakistan, already in range of India's less advanced missiles, also showed no concern, with Foreign Office spokesman Mozzam Ahmed Khan saying only that India had informed it of the test ahead of time in line with an agreement they have.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner just said that the US urges all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear capabilities. AP

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New S Korean missile 'able to hit all areas in North'

04:46 AM Apr 2
SEOUL - South Korea has added to its arsenal a cruise missile that can hit anywhere in the North, the Defence Ministry announced yesterday, a day after Pyongyang said it was ready to retaliate in the face of international condemnation over its failed rocket launch last week.

The reclusive North is widely expected to follow a pattern it set in 2009 with a successive missile and nuclear test by detonating an atomic device in coming weeks, possibly a device using highly enriched uranium for the first time.

North Korea has already declared as invalid a deal with Washington to let international inspectors back to its nuclear facilities in return for food aid.

"The (locally made cruise missile) has the capability to hit any facility or personnel in all areas of North Korea in whatever time frame as necessary," South Korea's Defence Ministry officer for policy planning, Major-General Shin Won Sik, said.

"We're making this public to underscore our commitment to respond to the North's missile threat and military provocation."

North Korea, which the South says has thousands of artillery pieces aimed at Seoul, admitted it had failed to accomplish its goal of putting a satellite into orbit with the rocket launch on Friday, which regional powers believe was a test of its long-range missile.

In a statement yesterday, North Korean space officials said they have figured out the cause of the rocket failure and will keep pushing forward with the country's space development programme. They did not describe the cause.

Relations between the Koreas have been abysmal since conservative South Korean President Lee Myung Bak took office in 2008 with a hardline policy that ended unconditional aid shipments to the North.

Pyongyang has regularly criticised Mr Lee and his government in its state media in recent days, repeating on Wednesday a threat to wage a "sacred war" against Seoul.

MG Shin warned that South Korea's military "will firmly and thoroughly retaliate if North Korea conducts a reckless provocation".

"If we are strong, they cannot provoke us," President Lee said yesterday. "North Korea provokes us when we seem weak."
0, 2012

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UN council set to condemn North Korea rocket launch

UNITED NATIONS - After days of closed-door haggling, the UN Security Council is hoping to adopt a statement today condemning North Korea's botched rocket launch and suggesting an expansion of a UN blacklist of North Korean firms and individuals, envoys said.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on Friday the members of the 15-nation Security Council "deplored" North Korea's failed bid to launch a long-range rocket, but that the council would continue talks on a formal condemnation of the actions of the hermit state.

Diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity that China, North Korea's closest ally, was pushing for a softer rebuke than the one favored by the United States, which holds this month's Security Council presidency.

"Unless China raises objections overnight, we'll adopt a presidential Statement on DPRK (North Korea) tomorrow at 10am (11pm tonight, Singapore time)," a Western diplomat told Reuters.

Unlike resolutions, council statements are not voted on but are adopted unanimously.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, has also deplored the rocket launch.

North Korea admitted its long-range rocket failed to deliver a satellite into orbit on Friday while US and South Korean officials said it crashed into the sea a few minutes after launch.

Diplomats said no council member had pushed the idea of imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang in retaliation for the launch, something China and Russia would have opposed.

However, they said the draft statement does urge the Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee to consider adding new names to an existing UN blacklist of firms and individuals linked to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile industries.

US and other Western officials have said the launch violated a UN ban on the use of ballistic missile technology by North Korea, a measure the Security Council imposed on Pyongyang in the wake of its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests. REUTERS

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