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North Korean missiles tested earlier this week have Russian ‘fingerprints’: experts – National

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North Korean missiles tested earlier this week have Russian ‘fingerprints’ experts National

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The three new missiles North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has tested over the past week are eerily familiar to military experts: They look just like a controversial and widely copied missile the Russian military has deployed to Syria and has been actively trying to sell abroad for years.

Ending a pause in ballistic missile launches that began in late 2017, and alarming North Korea’s neighbors, Kim personally supervised the launch of the first missile from the country’s east coast on Saturday and two more from the west on Thursday. All splashed down in the Pacific.

READ MORE: North Korea launches second round of missiles in less than a week, South says

The missiles were short-range and the launches do not mean Kim has decided to end his self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range missiles that could reach the United States mainland. They do indicate, however, that Kim is methodically expanding the battle readiness of his missile forces and that could have a major impact on the safety of American allies and U.S. forces in the region.

The missiles bear a strong resemblance to the Russian-designed Iskander, a short-range, nuclear-capable ballistic missile that has been in the Russian arsenal for more than a decade.

“There are Russian technology fingerprints all over it,” said Marcus Schiller, a leading expert on North Korean missiles who is based in Germany.

He added that short of actually procuring the missiles from Russia, the North could have had key parts delivered from somewhere else, perhaps not directly from Russia, while making components such as the outer shell, or airframe, domestically.

WATCH: Moon Jae-in says North Korea’s missile launch a protest of failed Hanoi summit





The Iskander, or something like it, would be of particular interest to North Korea.

It’s designed to fly at a flattened-out altitude of around 40 kilometers (25 miles) and to make in-flight guidance adjustments. Both capabilities exploit weaknesses in the U.S. and South Korean missile defenses that are now in place, primarily Patriot missile batteries and the THAAD anti-missile defense system.

The Iskander is also quicker to launch, and thus harder to destroy on the ground, because of its solid fuel engine and more accurate because of its advanced guidance system.

WATCH: Trump says they’re taking North Korea missile launch ‘seriously’





Despite claims by senior members of the Trump administration that the missiles aren’t a threat to the United States, in a battle scenario they would likely be used to attack targets well behind the front-lines, such as the U.S. military bases in South Korea. There are roughly 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and tens of thousands more family members and civilian Department of Defense employees.

The North first displayed a mock-up of an Iskander-like missile at a military parade in 2018. This week’s launches mark its first known flight tests.

Michael Elleman, director of the Nonproliferation and Nuclear Policy Program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said further analysis of the missiles’ performance will provide clues as to whether it was produced by Russia.

READ MORE: North Korea missile launches test Trump’s resolve

“If its flight path and accuracy were marginal or inconsistent with known Iskander trajectories and performance, then I think some form of local development with external technical assistance is more likely,” he said. “The key here is that one cannot make a new system without undertaking certain development steps. I have seen no evidence of such activity.”

Initial reports suggested at least one of the tests did involve an Iskander-like trajectory.

The Iskander missile system has been part of the Russian arsenal since 2006. The Iskander-M version used by the Russian military is more than 7 meters (yards) long, can weigh more than 4,000 kilograms (9,000 pounds) and has a range of about 400 to 500 kilometers (250 to 310 miles).

Russia first tested the Iskander in combat in 2008, against Georgia.

READ MORE: Kim Jong Un oversees missile firing drills, tells troops to keep ‘high alert posture’: State media

The Iskander missiles have long been a source of tension in Europe and were cited by President Donald Trump as a key reason behind his decision in February to break with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bans production, testing and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,410 miles).

Such missiles only take a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving no time for decision-makers and raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning. Moscow claims the Iskander-M’s range is just below the operational limit and should not be considered a treaty violation.

From the start, Russia has seen the Iskander missile as a potential export.

To avoid running afoul of international non-proliferation restrictions, Russia produces a less-formidable version that has a reduced range and is designed to carry a smaller payload for sales abroad.

WATCH: North Korea defends recent rocket drill, says was ‘regular and self-defensive’





So far, it has sold that missile — called Iskander-E — to Algeria and Armenia. It has reportedly discussed exports to Iran, Libya, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

According to Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks the global arms trade, Russia has used the Iskander missile in Syria. He said Syria has expressed interest in buying its own Iskanders, but Russia has declined.

Wezeman stressed Russia cannot legally sell Iskanders of any variety to North Korea.

WATCH: Putin says U.S. guarantees unlikely to prompt North Korea to denuclearize





A United Nations embargo in place since 2006, when the North conducted its first nuclear test, prohibits supplying the North with major arms, including ground-to-ground missiles, and U.N. sanctions prohibit the transfer of ballistic missiles and related technology.

If North Korea is producing an Iskander clone, it would not be the first country to do so.

South Korea has what many believe is its own Iskander-inspired missile — the Hyunmoo-2. China also has a similar missile, called the DF-12 or M20 that was also configured with exports in mind. One of its buyers, Qatar, put them on display at a parade in 2017.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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