1. North Korea Missile Site Said to Be Capable of Advanced Engine Testing
Voice of America
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One of the world's foremost analysts of North Korea's ballistic missile programs says reports of missile engine testing at a newly revealed facility appear credible. As VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin reports, North Korea is apparently able to test its missiles under more realistic conditions than ever.
South Korean media have been reporting this week, indications North Korea may have tested engines for some of its largest and longest-range missiles earlier this year.
Joseph Bermudez is a senior analyst with the Jane's group of defense and intelligence publications. He says the test would be consistent with North Korea's decades-old missile development program.
"North Korea has routinely conducted ballistic missile engine, space launch vehicle engine, testing for the past 10-15 years. It would not be unusual that they would do that now," he said.
The tests are suspected to have taken place at a facility Bermudez took the lead in making public this week. A report published by Jane's Defence Weekly features satellite photographs of a 10-story missile tower and launch pad, located in a Southwestern region of North Korea. Bermudez says North Korea probably began building it about eight years ago.
"The North Korean missile and space launch facility near Pongdong-ni is the most advanced North Korean launch facility to date," he said.
Bermudez says North Korea has usually tested missile engines by separating them from the body of the missile that would carry it. He says the new facility may make future tests more realistic.
"This facility appears that it could actually test the engine while it's in the airframe. What this does, it gives you an additional capability to test how your subsystems will react to the vibrations and possibly heat of the engine," explained Bermudez.
North Korea has devoted abundant resources and attention to missile development since the 1970s. It is believed to have about 800 missiles, most of them short-range weapons capable of reaching Japan and South Korea. In 2006, Pyongyang tested a long-range missile theoretically capable of reaching the United States, but it failed less than a minute after launch.
That long-range test took place just a few months before North Korea conducted a test explosion of its first nuclear weapon. Bermudez says the nuclear and missile programs are designed to complement each other.
"North Korea wants nuclear weapons, and it wants to mount those... on its ballistic missiles," he said.
Some security experts believe North Korea may be able to reach the United States with a ballistic missile by about 2012, under the most favorable set of conditions. Mounting a nuclear weapon on a long-range missile and delivering it accurately is a far more complex task. Whether Pyongyang might achieve that remains a matter of speculation.
1. Ahmadinejad Says Iran Will Press on With Atomic Work (Update2)
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President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad forecast the demise of Israel and said Iran will pursue its nuclear program, three days after the UN said the country isn't cooperating with a probe into possible weapons development.
``The regime of Israel, which is the core of aggression, is nearing the end,'' Ahmadinejad said today at a Tehran news conference. The Iranian leader has repeatedly denied Israel's right to exist since he came to office three years ago, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has warned that all options are open to prevent Iran developing atomic weapons.
Iran has refused to answer questions about possible weapons activity and expanded its production of nuclear fuel, the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report published Sept. 15. Ahmadinejad today dismissed the threat that the UN Security Council may impose further sanctions on Iran over its atomic work.
``The nuclear issue is over,'' he said. ``Pressure will not have an impact on the determination of the Iranian people'' to carry on with the research, said the Iranian president, who at another point in the news conference said, ``The oppressive power of the U.S. is on the decline.''
Iran's defiance increased tension between the Persian Gulf country and Western powers over the program, which the U.S. and some major allies, including Israel, say is cover for weapons development. The government in Tehran faces further isolation, the U.S. said following the IAEA report, while France said it will back moves for a fourth round of UN sanctions against the country.
The Security Council has repeatedly called on Iran to halt its enrichment of uranium, a process that can fuel a nuclear power station or form the core of a bomb, and Iran is already under three sets of international trade and technology sanctions.
Iran, which has the world's second-largest oil and natural gas reserves, says its program is for civilian use, intended to generate electricity, and legal under the nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory.
The Bush administration says it favors a diplomatic solution to the dispute, though it hasn't ruled out military attacks.
On June 2, Israeli warplanes carried out an exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea that was interpreted by military analysts as a rehearsal for a strike on Iranian nuclear sites. In July, the U.S. Fifth Fleet conducted maneuvers to practice protecting Gulf oil rigs. Days later Iran said its military test- fired a missile with a 2,000-kilometer (1,243-mile) range, which would put Israel's major cities within range.
UN General Assembly
The State Department said Sept. 16 that U.S., U.K., French, Chinese, Russian and German diplomats will discuss the dispute tomorrow, ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York next week. Those countries' foreign ministers are scheduled to talk about possible further steps in the dispute at the Assembly. Ahmadinejad is due to attend the UN gathering.
China indicated Sept. 16 that it may not be prepared to back further sanctions, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu saying that negotiation was ``the only way'' to resolve the dispute.
Tension with the West over the war in Georgia has sharpened Russian opposition to pressuring Iran at the UN, U.S. and British envoys said last week. China and Russia are both veto-wielding, permanent members of the Security Council.
The Security Council on March 3 voted to tighten trade, travel and financial sanctions against Iran. The resolution urged inspection of cargo going to and from Iran that might contain banned nuclear-related goods and asked nations to refrain from granting export credits or entering into financial transactions with Iranian banks. It also banned travel outside Iran by several senior nuclear officials.
Iran has also ignored resolutions adopted in December 2006 and March 2007 that demanded a suspension of enrichment.
Russia and China are ``quite worried'' about the latest IAEA report criticizing Iran, the Associated Press cited European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana as saying today in Paris.
The report ``isn't good for Iran,'' Solana said, while he stopped short of saying that there is support for a push for more sanctions, AP said.
1. Atomic trade high on India PM's U.S., France tour
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Armed with a permit for global nuclear trade, India's prime minister leaves next week for the United States and France hoping to seal atomic energy deals and discuss cooperation in defense and counter-terrorism.
Manmohan Singh will fly out on Monday for what will be India's first top-level diplomatic engagement since a global nuclear cartel allowed it access to nuclear fuel and technology, overturning a 34-year-long ban for testing nuclear devices.
Singh is also expected to use the visit to review with President George Bush the progress of an India-U.S. nuclear deal awaiting approval by the U.S. Congress, where it faces significant opposition from the non-proliferation lobby.
There has been talk the deal could be ratified by Congress and ready for signing before Singh ends his U.S. visit, but Indian officials and analysts remain cautious in their optimism.
"No one knows for sure when it will be ready," Naresh Chandra, former Indian ambassador to Washington, said of the deal, seen as a cornerstone of India's growing ties with the West.
"It is now a creature of circumstances and subject to the ebb and flow of Congressional opinion."
At present, just three percent of India's total power requirement in generated by nuclear plants, a proportion New Delhi aims to increase to around 25 percent by 2050, taking billions of dollars in investment.
Relations between India and the United States have come a long way from the days of the Cold War when the two countries were typically on opposite sides.
India's economic reform program, its huge market, a booming information technology industry, its growing military reach and its potential as a counterweight to China have combined to bring New Delhi closer to Washington.
Today, the two capitals are talking about India buying U.S. F-16 fighter jets and nuclear reactors, a far cry from the days when Washington imposed sanctions on New Delhi after it conducted nuclear tests in 1998.
Besides the nuclear deal, Singh, an eminent economist, will hold talks on issues ranging from defense to terrorism and the global financial crisis.
He will also address the U.N. General Assembly and could hold bilateral meetings with other heads of state, including a likely meeting with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
In France, Singh will meet French President Nicholas Sarkozy and is expected to sign a nuclear pact under which India could obtain, subject to fulfilling international safeguards, nuclear fuel from France for reactors purchased from it.
"The PM's France visit will be about posturing as well, telling the Americans ... look, we have other options if you don't clear the deal," columnist Kuldip Nayar told Reuters.
"Geo-political compulsions mean India needs to be seen equally friendly with independent European countries such as France."
Prospects for nuclear trade with India -- expected at about $27 billion in investment in 18-20 new nuclear power plants over the next 15 years -- have boosted the stock market value of nuclear equipment makers.
Local media says India's monopoly Nuclear Power Corp has tentatively picked four suppliers, including U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric and France's Areva, for planned new projects.
India also is negotiating with General Electric, Hitachi and Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom.
India has forged strong defense ties with France in recent years, with deals for Mirage jets and Scorpene submarines to modernize its military, the world's fourth-largest.
France's Dassault Rafale is competing to provide India with combat aircraft in the world's biggest fighter jet contract in years, expected to top $10.2 billion for 126 planes. U.S. firm Lockheed Martin Corp is also interested in the deal.
Analysts say Singh will want to move from talk to action when it comes to nuclear energy, and will try to put bilateral mechanisms in place with the United States and France to ensure proposals move forward quickly once agreed upon.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will consider a report that has advised against the sale of uranium to Russia before the Federal Government makes a final decision on the matter.
Federal Parliament's Treaties Committee today recommended the Government delay ratifying a treaty to sell uranium to Russia because of fears about the country's nuclear weapons program.
The treaty was signed last year by the Howard government, and the deal is reportedly worth $1 billion a year.
Mr Rudd says he fears the West is approaching a turning point in its dealings with Russia.
"Obviously the global situation in relation to the Russian Federation is now complex as a result of what we have seen in Georgia and most particularly in Southern Ossetia," he said.
"We'll be working closely with international governments on the best response to the Russians.
"This is again a very difficult challenge for the global order."
After examining the proposal, the majority Labor members on the Treaties Committee say it should be torn up if eight stringent conditions cannot be met, including the separation of Russia's civil and military nuclear facilities and the resumption of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of facilities that will take Australian uranium.
Committee members had earlier expressed fears that Russia could use Australian uranium as part of its nuclear weapons program, though Coalition Senators have issued a dissenting report saying that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty provides safeguards against Russia's use of uranium for military use.
They also say nuclear power might help Russia lower its greenhouse gas emissions.
Committee chair and Labor MP, Kelvin Thomson, said the Liberal Party was having a bet each way with the international atomic inspections body.
"When we went to war in Iraq, the Liberal Party insisted that we were at risk from weapons of mass destruction and advanced the notion of preventive war," he said.
"This was a massive vote of no confidence in the IAEA. But now this same Liberal Party says the IAEA will ensure that nothing goes wrong, and this despite the IAEA not having carried out any inspection in Russia since at least 2001 and probably longer.
"The Liberal Party is so hungry for the uranium export dollars that they want to believe nothing can go wrong. They are prepared to turn a blind eye to what happens after we sell the uranium to Russia."
The Russians have already sensed that Australia is having second thoughts on the agreement with the country's ambassador paying a visit to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith earlier this month, and saying that Australia's economic interests could be harmed if the deal was not ratified.
The dissenting Liberals included Victorian Senator Julian McGauran. He said the majority members of the committee had gone on a "frolic".
"They don't rely on the experience and expertise of the departments, they have instead relied upon what I would classify as some extreme anti-nuclear groups," he said.
The tabling of the report led to some heated exchanges in the Senate.
Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham mocked the Government for taking different stands with different countries.
"China is OK. Well, we'd expect that from the Prime Minister that China would be an OK destination for uranium. India though, no, no, no, certainly not India, India wouldn't be OK at all. And yet now today we discover today with the tabling of this treaty Russia, we're not sure. That's right we're not sure," he said.
"China's OK, India's not and Russia, well, it seems the Government is having a bob each way. Because the left wing-dominated members of this Treaties Committee, they've said no, they've said no way," Senator Birmingham added, calling for clarification from the Government.
The committee also points to Russia's recent conflict with Georgia, saying that action underlines concerns that Moscow cannot be trusted, even though it is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Greens Senator Christine Milne cites Russia's human rights record as another reason to rip-up the agreement.
"It was very clear leading up to APEC last year that the Russians were receding from any notion of democracy and engagement but instead were going back to the old KGB days," she said, going on to accuse the Liberal Party of seeking profits over human rights and failing to understand climate change issues.
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, says the Government will consider the committee's report before making a final decision.
Mr Smith says the Government will also take into account the events in Georgia, and Australia's bilateral relationship with Russia.
1. Pak for nuclear engagement with China to counter Indo-US deal
Press Trust of India
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In its bid to offset the impact of Indo-US nuclear deal, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will take up the acquisition of nuclear fuel technology from China during his forthcoming visit.
The Pakistan government has decided to set up two nuclear power plants worth Rs 139 billion to overcome the country's energy crisis, official sources were quoted as saying by the Aaj Kal Urdu daily.
Zardari, who is expected to visit China in the near future, will discuss the acquisition of fuel technology for the two new plants with the Chinese leadership, the sources said.
Pakistan's Planning Commission is expected to approve the plan for the new atomic plants during a meeting today. The projects will be completed in eight years.
Once completed, they will produce electricity at Rs 6.06 a unit. The two plants will generate 4,467 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year.
In view of future requirements of nuclear fuel, a Nuclear Fuel Power Complex, consisting of a chemical processing plant, an enrichment plant, a seamless tube plant and a fuel fabrication plant, will be set up at a cost of Rs 51.298 billion.
Reports have suggested that Pakistan plans to acquire nuclear technology from China to check the impact of the Indo-US nuclear deal, which allows New Delhi to acquire atomic know-how and equipment from the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
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