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A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test. Reuters file photoNorth Korea fired a missile on Friday that experts said was capable of hitting Los Angeles and other US cities and the United States and South Korea responded by staging a joint missile exercise.North Korea confirmed the launch on Saturday, with its official news agency saying it was a “stern warning” for the United States. President Kim Jong Un said the missile showed that all of the United States was within striking distance but US authorities characterized that as an exaggeration.The administration of US President Donald Trump, which has branded North Korea the “most urgent and dangerous threat to peace,” condemned the launch as reckless.“By threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.”South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said at a news conference on Saturday Seoul would prepare independent measures to curb the nuclear threat from the North.“This ballistic missile launch by North Korea is a serious provocation that not only clearly violates the UN Security Council’s numerous resolutions but also threatens the safety of the Korean peninsula and world peace,” Song said. “The joint governments of South Korea and the United States will firmly punish North Korea for its missile provocation.”He said steps would be taken to hasten the temporary deployment of THAAD anti-missile units from the United States.The unusual late-night launch added to exasperation in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo over Pyongyang’s continuing development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Friday’s test prompted US and South Korean military officials to discuss military response options.The North Korean military had already raised alarms early this month with its first ICBM launch.The top US military official, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford, and Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, spoke by phone with the top South Korean military official, General Lee Sun-jin, to discuss military response options to the launch.The Trump administration has said that all options are on the table, including military ones, however it has also made clear that diplomacy and sanctions are its preferred course.Following a meeting of South Korea’s National Security Council, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he wanted the UN Security Council to discuss new and stronger sanctions against the North, the presidential Blue House said.Later the United States and South Korea conducted a live-fire ballistic missile exercise in a display of firepower in response to the missile launch, the US military said.The two allies had staged a similar exercise after the North Korean test earlier in the month.The launch from North Korea’s northern Jangang province took place at 11:41 p.m. (1441 GMT), an official at South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile flew for about 45 minutes before apparently landing in the waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Japanese broadcaster NHK, citing a military official, said the missile reached an altitude of more than 3,000 km (1,860 miles).US CITIES IN RANGEThe South Korean military said the missile was believed to be an ICBM-class, flying more than 1,000 km (620 miles) and reaching an altitude of 3,700 km (2,300 miles). In Washington, the Pentagon also said it had assessed that the missile was an ICBM.US officials said the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon spy agency, has determined that North Korea will be able to field a reliable nuclear-capable ICBM by next year, earlier than previously thought.Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies said the launch showed Los Angeles was within range of a North Korean missile, with Chicago, New York and Washington, just out of reach.“They may not have demonstrated the full range. The computer models suggest it can hit all of those targets,” he said.The US-based Union of Concerned Scientists said its calculations showed the missile could have been capable of going as far into the United States as Denver and Chicago.Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said the window for a diplomatic solution with North Korea “is closing rapidly.”“The key here is that North Korea has a second successful test in less than one month,” he said. “If this trend holds, they could establish an acceptably reliable ICBM before year’s end.”John Schilling, an aerospace expert and a contributor to 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring website, said the improved performance over the previous test could have been the result of a lighter payload as part of an effort to demonstrate that the missile could hit the US capital.Los Angeles would be protected by the US missile defense network, which includes four ground-based interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force base, 150 miles north of the city, and a second battery of 32 missiles in Alaska.During a test on 31 May the missile defense system shot down an incoming ICBM missile aimed at the US mainland and a Pentagon spokesman said the military had “confidence in our ability to defend against the limited threat.”Other authorities say the United States may not be able to seal itself off entirely from a North Korean ICBM attack.A DAY AFTER SANCTIONSTrump spoke with Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping about North Korea’s nuclear arsenal this month and has become frustrated that China has not reined in its ally Pyongyang.Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Friday’s launch had been expected and took place from Mupyong-ni, an arms plant in northern North Korea. It came a day after the US Senate approved a package of sanctions on North Korea, Russia and Iran.UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the launch of a “ballistic missile of possible intercontinental range,” his spokesman said.A Russian Defence Ministry official said Moscow’s data indicated the launch was only of a medium-range ballistic missile, Russian news agency Tass reported. Diplomats say China and Russia only view a long-range missile test or nuclear weapon test as a trigger for further possible UN sanctions.The data on the trajectory indicate the missile was fired at a sharply lofted angle but packed more power than the missile launched on July 4 that U.S and South Korean officials said was an ICBM, potentially capable of hitting the US mainland.US intelligence officials say that even if North Korea develops a reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM, which some say it remains several steps short of doing, the weapon would be almost useless except to deter the conventional attacks that Kim fears.“Kim is determined to secure international recognition of the North as a nuclear armed state, for the purposes of security, prestige, and political legitimacy,” the National Intelligence Council’s January Global Trends report said.
A house is seen on fire in Gawduthar village, Maungdaw township, in the north of Rakhine state, Myanmar 7 September 2017. Photo: ReutersA human rights law group contracted by the State Department to interview refugees as part of an investigation into atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar has found that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that genocide was committed – even though the US government stopped short of saying so.A report due to be released on Monday by the Washington-based Public International Law and Policy Group (PILPG) will also say there was a reasonable basis to conclude that the Myanmar military committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as genocide.A US State Department report released in September, which relied on PILPG research, found that Myanmar’s military waged a “well-planned and coordinated” campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against the Rohingya.But it stopped short of describing the crackdown as genocide or crimes against humanity, an issue that US officials said was the subject of fierce internal debate that delayed the report’s rollout for nearly a month.A declaration of genocide by the US government, which has only gone as far as labeling the crackdown “ethnic cleansing,” could have legal implications of committing Washington to stronger punitive measures against Myanmar. This has made some in the Trump administration wary of issuing such an assessment.In an advisory on Thursday announcing the planned release of the legal analysis of its investigation, PILPG said it would reveal that “there is a reasonable basis to conclude that war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide were committed against the Rohingya population.”PILPG based its report on more than 1,000 interviews with Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh. The group said its mission was conducted in March and April “to provide an accurate accounting of the patterns of abuse and atrocity crimes.”The September State Department report was released in low-key fashion nearly a month after U.N. investigators issued a report accusing Myanmar’s military of acting with “genocidal intent” and calling for the country’s commander-in-chief and five generals to be prosecuted under international law.State Department officials have said the objective of the US government investigation was not to determine genocide but to “document the facts,” and it would be up to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to make a “legal” designation in the future.Pompeo has urged Myanmar’s government to investigate abuses against the Rohingya and hold accountable members of its security forces and others who were responsible.A top State Department official said in September those responsible could be held accountable for genocide and crimes against humanity.The military in Myanmar, previously known as Burma, where Buddhism is the main religion, has denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and says its actions were part of a fight against terrorism.