Thursday,12 Jan 2022 I Latest Headlines Kim Jong Un returns to guide North Korea’s steady missile advancements in 2022 – by Ankit Panda

After third hypersonic test, North Korea is on pace for a busy year and might even launch its first ICBM since 2017.
Judging from North Korean state media photos, the missile launched Tuesday appeared to feature the same conical shape as the weapon tested last week.
Following last week’s launch, many defense experts noted that North Korea had not tested a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) as it claimed, but instead had utilized a similar but less advanced technology known as a maneuverable reentry vehicle (MaRV).
“It could be considered a type of HGV — it’s hypersonic, it can glide, and it’s a vehicle — but it does not represent quite the same category of technology that we normally associate with that label,” said Joshua Pollack, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
In a September launch, North Korea appeared to use technology more closely resembling an HGV. Pictures in state media showed a vehicle with a flattened, winglike shape that was attached to a larger rocket. Analysts say that shape helps it glide longer distances.
HGVs sit atop a booster rocket and detach from it before gliding to their target. Since HGVs fly at relatively low altitudes and can be maneuvered in flight, they are, in theory, harder to intercept.
“It’s a really tough technology to master, and the North Korean turn to calling a MaRV an HGV might indicate that they feel they overreached with their (missile launched in September), and it’s nowhere near ready for prime time,” Pollack said.
Defense analysts also caution that the phrase “hypersonic” is misleading, since most ballistic missiles already travel at hypersonic speeds (faster than five times the speed of sound). The more relevant question, they say, is the extent to which North Korea has mastered the ability to make such weapons maneuverable and accurate.
Unlike last week’s test, North Korean state media reported Kim attended the Tuesday launch. It is the first test he has personally observed since early 2020, according to state media reports.
By attending the test, Kim may be signaling that hypersonic missile development is a priority, analysts say.
“After a long absence from attending missile tests, Kim supervising a launch elevates its political significance,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“North Korea has appeared to exaggerate its hypersonic technology for political reasons, including national pride and signaling a determination to defeat the missile defense systems of other countries,” he added.


Lee Jae-myung urges rival to retract support for North Korea ‘preemptive strike’ – by Jeongmin Kim
Progressive presidential candidate characterizes remarks as reckless, calls DPRK’s latest missile test a ‘provocation’
Progressive South Korean presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung on Wednesday urged his conservative opponent to retract his support for a “preemptive strike” in the event of a pending North Korean hypersonic missile attack, describing Yoon Suk-yeol’s comments as reckless and dangerous.
Yoon of the People Power Party (PPP) suggested the idea the previous day in response to a question about North Korea’s latest test of a hypersonic missile that could potentially thwart conventional missile defenses with its high speed and maneuverability.
“It’s like watching a child who is playing with fire in a powder keg,” Lee said. “No leader in the world talks lightly about a preemptive strike. This can be seen by the international community as suggesting a war of invasion, or could even be interpreted as a declaration of war if things go wrong.”
Yoon’s camp has stressed that the candidate was discussing a strictly hypothetical situation in which military officials have identified clear signs of an imminent nuclear attack. And Lee, while critical of his opponent’s comments, suggested that he might respond similarly to a potential hypersonic attack as commander in chief.
“It’s in the Concept of Operation (CONOP),” he said, referring to a statement on commanders’ goals, assumptions and intentions related to military operations. “It is true that [CONOP calls for] getting rid of the root if it cannot be denied that a nuclear or weapons of mass destruction attack by the North is clear and imminent, and that not striking the target will bring mass damage in the South.” 
Yet Lee qualified that a preemptive strike should not be carried out when the situation is unclear, and he said that military experts should discuss such theories in command centers, not “politicians at normal times.”
Leaders, Lee said, should “be able to think cautiously what kind of consequences one’s remarks will bring,” stressing that the president’s priority is to “stably manage” inter-Korean relations.

Kim Yo Jong unusually prominent at North Korea’s latest hypersonic missile test – by Colin Zwirko
DPRK leader’s sister stood next to him on viewing deck for the first time, a possible sign of her growing influence.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong appeared in the official observation area beside him during a missile test on Tuesday, according to photos released by state media, the first time she has occupied such a prominent position at a launch.
One expert told NK News the move signals Kim Yo Jong’s growing influence in military affairs, but not necessarily a change in her official job title. 

UN food program unable to provide aid to hungry North Koreans since March 2021 – by Jeongmin Kim
World Food Program says DPRK’s pandemic measures remain ‘key challenge,’ as country appears to face food shortages.
The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) has not distributed food aid to vulnerable women, children and patients in North Korea since March 2021, the agency said in a new report published Wednesday, as pandemic restrictions have prevented the organization from providing assistance to cover apparent food shortages.
The DPRK has limited almost all cross-border transportation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since Jan. 2020, and there have been no international aid workers on the ground there for almost a year, with WFP’s country director the last U.N. staff to leave Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Un guided North Korea’s third ‘hypersonic’ missile test: state media – by Colin Zwirko
It’s the first missile launch Kim has publicly attended in nearly two years
North Korea successfully conducted its third “hypersonic gliding warhead” test on Tuesday, according to state media, which said leader Kim Jong Un guided the missile test alongside his sister Kim Yo Jong and top officials.
It was the first missile test Kim officially attended since March 2020, as the Academy of Defence Science and military officials have reportedly led over a dozen missile tests since then, including “hypersonic” tests last week and in Sept. 2021.
The latest from the podcast Unification ministry veterans promoting Korean peace – NKNews Podcast Ep. 217
Kim Hyeong-seok and J.R. Kim discuss their new Council on Diplomacy for Korean Unification.
Unification remains the official goal of inter-Korean policy on both sides of the Korean Peninsula, and the new Council on Diplomacy for Korean Unification (CDKU), founded by veterans of the country’s unification ministry, aims to keep the dream alive.

This week, Kim Hyeong-seok and J.R. Kim join the podcast to discuss their organization, which brings together retired unification ministry officials, scholars and other self-described “old-timers” of the North Korea watcher community to promote peaceful unification at the civilian level. They delve into what makes CDKU unique, their hopes to bring in younger voices and what they have planned for the future. 

Kim Hyeong-seok is a retired official of South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, serving as vice minister of unification from 2016-2017, and is now president of CDKU. Dr. J.R. Kim is currently director-general without portfolio at the unification ministry, where he most recently served as acting head of the North Korea Human Rights Center, and is vice president and secretary-general of CDKU.
Top NK stories from around the web :

Senior S. Korean, U.S. diplomats discuss alliance, regional security in phone call (Yonhap News)
Senior diplomats of South Korea and the United States held phone talks Wednesday to discuss the bilateral alliance and other issues on the Korean Peninsula, according to officials.
Yeo Seung-bae, deputy foreign minister for political affairs, and his U.S. counterpart Daniel Kritenbrink had comprehensive discussions on regional and global issues, a foreign ministry official said without elaborating.
“I had a great conversation with Deputy Foreign Minister Yeo on the U.S.-ROK relationship and our close collaboration on shared regional and global challenges,” Kritenbrink tweeted, using the acronym for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.
As for whether North Korea was discussed during the talks, the official said the allies are in close consultations over various matters, including the Korean Peninsula issue. Earlier this week, the North once again test-fired what it claims to be a hypersonic missile.

Moon not considering attending Beijing Olympics: Cheong Wa Dae (Yonhap News)
President Moon Jae-in is not considering attending the Beijing Olympics next month, a Cheong Wa Dae official said Wednesday, despite Seoul’s hopes to use the Games to help resume dialogue with Pyongyang.
The North’s state media reported last week that the country had told China that it cannot participate in the Games slated for next month due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other reasons though it “fully” supports the event.
“We are not considering the issue of President Moon participating in the Beijing Winter Olympics next month,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity when asked about how internal discussions on the issue had been proceeding.
The official took note of Seoul’s ongoing considerations regarding the sending of an “appropriate” delegation to the Olympics “in accordance with the custom.”
The official also reiterated Seoul’s hopes that the Olympics would contribute to peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and the rest of the world as well as improvement in inter-Korean relations.
Seoul’s efforts to use the Beijing Olympics to revive its stalled peace initiative have faced a series of setbacks, including Washington’s diplomatic boycott of the Games and renewed cross-border tensions caused by a recent spate of North Korean missile tests.

North Korea’s maneuverable ‘hypersonic’ missiles leave Japan in a bind (The Japan Times)
Kim Jong Un made a dramatic return to the headlines Wednesday, with state-run media reporting that the North Korean leader personally oversaw the successful test of a powerful “hypersonic weapon system” that could provide ammunition to proponents of the need for major shift in Japan’s defense-only security posture.
In a signal of the weapon’s importance, it was believed to be the first time since March 2020 that Kim had officially watched over a missile launch, analysts said.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the “hypersonic glide vehicle” tested a day earlier had made a 240-kilometer (150-mile) “corkscrew” maneuver during its flight, slamming into a target in waters 1,000 km away. Photos accompanying the report appeared to show the missile as having been launched from the country’s border with China, over the Sea of Japan and making a left turn after re-entering the atmosphere over waters separating North Korea and Russia from northern Japan.

Factory workers in North Pyongan Province munitions factory punished for pilfering scrap metal (Daily NK)
North Korean authorities recently punished a gang that was caught pilfering scrap metal from a munitions factory. The crew — employees at the factory — allegedly committed their crimes because even munitions plants are failing to provide proper rations to their workers.
According to a Daily NK source in North Pyongan Province on Tuesday, several employees of Factory No. 76 in Panmak-ri, Sakju County were recently caught storing scrap metal produced during the munitions manufacturing process at their homes.
Since Factory No. 76 makes ammunition for automatic rifles, anti-aircraft guns and other weapons, it reportedly produces a lot of scrap metal.
However, because munitions factories have tougher surveillance and inspections during the production process, it is not easy for individual workers to pilfer scrap metal willy nilly.
Because of this, officials were mortified when they heard what happened, wondering how the culprits could have committed such a bold crime.
An investigation revealed that security cadres took part in the crime, including a member of a Ministry of Social Security team.
This means that agents of the Ministry of Social Security, who were supposed to keep an eye out for corruption at the munitions factory, colluded with employees to pilfer scrap metal, making ill-begotten gains in the process.
This nearly perfect caper was discovered thanks to a tip to Unified Command 82, the unit tasked with ending “anti-socialist and non-socialist behavior.”
According to the source, after receiving the tip, agents from the unified command raided the suspects’ homes, finding over a ton of scrap metal per person.

U.N. Command to suspend Panmunjom tours again amid coronavirus concerns (Yonhap News)
Tours to the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom will be suspended starting next week due to spikes in COVID-19 infections, the U.N. Command (UNC) said Wednesday.
The UNC will discontinue the tour program to the Joint Security Area in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, effective Tuesday, less than two months after it resumed the tours in line with the country’s “living with COVID-19” scheme.
“UNC coordinated this suspension closely with the Ministry of Unification, and remains committed to supporting ROK government efforts to preventing the potential spread of COVID19,” the command said in a statement, using the acronym for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.
The U.S.-led UNC oversees activities in the DMZ. It enforces the armistice agreement that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.
U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), meanwhile, said it has confirmed 1,599 additional COVID-19 cases among its personnel over the past week, which represents a record high number in its weekly tally.
Only 10 of the cases counted from Jan. 4 to Monday were imported, according to the USFK website. It did not offer more details, including the number of breakthrough infections, or locations of the infected members.
USFK spokesperson Col. Lee Peters said that the confirmed case increases are a result of increased testing and can be linked to pre-travel authorization for leave and redeployments, symptomatic testing, contact tracing and those returning from travel outside the Korean Peninsula.
Brushing aside concerns that the rise in infections could affect the allied defense posture, Peters stressed the USFK remains “at a high level of fight tonight readiness and can fulfill our obligation to protect and defend the Republic of Korea against any threat or adversary.”
Amid the growing number of cases among its troops, the USFK started banning all personnel from visiting off-base facilities, such as indoor malls and gyms, on Saturday. It also prohibited its members from traveling to Seoul except for official duties.
The total number of COVID-19 cases reported among the USFK-affiliated population totaled 4,262. The USFK said nearly 90 percent of its affiliated community is vaccinated.

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