North Korea Conducts Second Missile Test in a Week
- North Korea tested two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday which is the second test it has conducted in a week.
- This follows a months-long period with several hurdles in the relationship between the United States and North Korea.
- The immediate impact that these tests will have on relations are unclear, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cut a trip to Europe short so he could return to Washington, D.C and hold meetings to discuss North Korea and Iran.
North Korea Tests Missiles
North Korea has conducted its second missile test in under a week.
South Korean media reported that on Thursday the North tested two short-range ballistic missiles, which it believes were launched from a base in Sino-ri. One missile traveled 167 miles, while the other reached 260.
The timing of this follows U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun’s trip to South Korea. Biegun arrived in the country on Wednesday to talk with leaders about a variety of subjects, including North Korea.
This test also occurred roughly ten minutes before the United States conducted an international ballistic missile test out of California. According to the Washington Post, however, this test was scheduled and was not in response or relation to North Korea’s test.
Thursday’s news follows reports of tests conducted by North Korea on Saturday, which were later confirmed by the country’s state media news source, Korean Central News Agency.
According to their statement, Kim Jong Un oversaw a strike test that used “large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons.”
President Donald Trump responded on Twitter by saying he still believes that he and Kim could reach a deal when it comes to nuclearization.
Tensions Between North Korea and the U.S.
The past couple of months have proven bumpy for United States relations with North Korea. When Trump and Kim met at a summit in Vietnam at the end of February, the two walked away having reached no deal on denuclearization and sanctions.
North Korea then conducted its first test post-summit in April. On the same day the country confirmed its test, it also announced via KNCA that it no longer wanted to participate in nuclear discussions with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo later told reporters that “nothing has changed.”
“We’ll continue to work to negotiate,” he said. “President Trump is obviously in charge of the overall effort, but it’ll be my team.”
At the end of April, Kim went to Russia for the first time and had a short summit with Vladimir Putin. Their meeting was reportedly brief, and while they did hold nuclear discussions, experts believe they were not deep.
“The summit was friendly but seems to have produced little substance,” wrote Artyom Lukin, a contributor for 38 North, a source entirely devoted to analyzing North Korea. “Putin signaled that he is a player in the North Korea game, but his stakes in the game are probably not as high as those of other players.”
On Thursday, the United States also took action against North Korea by seizing one of their cargo ships. The Justice Department claimed that North Korea was breaking international sanctions by illicitly exporting coal.
So where does this leave U.S. relations with North Korea? As of Sunday, Pompeo said he still believed there was an opportunity for denuclearization. However, it is unclear if Thursday’s news will impact his view.
On Thursday, Pompeo ended up cutting his trip to Europe short so he could return to D.C. and hold meetings to discuss both North Korea and Iran.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Fox News) (Vox)
U.S. Intel Suggests Pro-Ukraine Group Sabotaged Nord Stream Pipeline
There is no evidence that the culprits behind the attack were acting under the direction of the Ukrainian government.
Europe Braces for Shocking Revelations
A pro-Ukraine group blew up the Nord Stream pipelines last September, intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests.
The New York Times reported the news Tuesday, citing officials who said there was no evidence of involvement by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, any of his top lieutenants, or any government officials.
The strength of the evidence, however, is not clear, and U.S. officials declined to inform The Times on the nature of the intelligence or how it was obtained. They reportedly added that the intelligence indicates neither who the group’s members are nor who funded and directed the operation.
The Times’ sources said they believe the saboteurs were most likely Russian or Ukrainian nationals and that they possibly received specialized government training in the past.
It’s also possible that the group behind the attack was a proxy with covert ties to Kyiv, the report added.
When three of four Nord Stream pipelines were found to be severely damaged last year, the revelation shook markets and sent European gas prices soaring. Nord Stream 1, which was completed in 2011, and Nord Stream 2, which had been laid down but wasn’t yet operational, supplied Germany and by extension the rest of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas.
Following the explosions, Poland and Ukraine blamed Russia, and Russia blamed Britain. Other observers speculated that Ukraine might be behind it too.
More Ongoing Investigations
Last month, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in a Substack article that the United States military carried out the attack and that President Biden authorized it himself. However, Hersh’s report cited only one anonymous source in support of its central claim, so it was largely dismissed as not credible.
Western governments expressed caution on Wednesday in response to The Times report.
“There are ongoing national investigations and I think it’s right to wait until those are finalized before we say anything more about who was behind it,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement.
Russia, by contrast, pounced on the opportunity to renew its demand for inclusion in a proposed international probe into the pipeline explosion.
The Ukrainian government denied any involvement in the Nord Stream explosions.
On Wednesday, multiple German media outlets reported that investigators have largely reconstructed how the attack happened, pinning the blame on six people who allegedly used a yacht hired by a Ukrainian-owned company in Poland.
German officials reportedly searched a vessel suspected of carrying the explosives in January, but the investigation is ongoing.
The country’s defense minister suggested the explosions may have been a “false flag” attack to smear Ukraine.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Associated Press) (Reuters)
Turkey, Syria Earthquake Death Toll Rises to 41,000 as Survivors Pulled from Rubble
A pair of brothers spent around 200 hours trapped under debris, living off of protein powder and their own urine.
A Humanitarian Crisis Explodes
The number of confirmed dead from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last week has surpassed 41,000.
Millions more people have been left stranded without adequate shelter, food, clean water, or medical supplies.
At night, the region has dropped to below-freezing temperatures.
Now health authorities are worried that the lack of sanitation infrastructure, which was damaged by the quakes, will lead to a disease outbreak.
“We haven’t been able to rinse off since the earthquake,” 21-year-old Mohammad Emin, whose home was destroyed, told Reuters.
He was helping out at a clinic serving displaced people in an open-air stadium, but with no showers and only six toilets, the resource shortage was poignant.
“They are offering tetanus shots to residents who request them, and distributing hygiene kits with shampoo, deodorant, pads and wipes,” added Akin Hacioglu, a doctor at the clinic.
The World Health Organization monitors the population for waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid, as well as seasonal influenza and COVID-19.
Rescuers Race Against the Clock
After more than a week of searching, hopes that more living victims will be found amid the collapsed buildings are fading, but rescuers continue to pull out the final few survivors.
Abdulbaki Yeninar, 21, and his brother Muhammed Enes Yeninar, 17, spent about 200 hours under rubble in the city of Kahramanmaras before they were extracted Tuesday. They told reporters they held on by eating protein powder, drinking their own urine, and swallowing gulps of air.
In the same city, teams dug a 16-foot tunnel through debris to rescue a woman, and to the south, a volunteer mining crew joined the efforts to save another.
With no homes to go back to, some survivors have joined the ranks of volunteers themselves.
In the past week, more than 35,000 Turkish search-and-rescue teams worked alongside thousands of international workers in the effort, according to Turkey’s emergency management agency.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called the earthquakes the “disaster of the century” and said in a statement that at least 13,000 people were being treated in hospitals.
The death toll is expected to rise even further in the coming weeks.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (Al Jazeera)
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Resigns
“In my head and in my heart I know that time is now,” she said to reporters
Sturgeon Steps Down
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation on Wednesday.
Sturgeon has been Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister and she is also the first woman to ever hold the position. She has been in politics since 1999, leading the charge for Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom. Sturgeon also guided the country through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sturgeon made sure to mention that her decision was not in response to the latest round of political pressure she is facing after her recent controversies regarding gender reform. Rather, her reasons are rooted in her own personal struggle with whether she can continue to do the job well.
“To be clear, I am not expecting violins here. But I am a human being as well as a politician,” she said during a press conference on Wednesday. “My point is this – giving absolutely everything of yourself to this job is the only way to do it. The country deserves nothing less. But, in truth, that can only be done by anyone for so long.
“For me, it is now in danger of becoming too long,” Sturgeon continued. “A First Minister is never off-duty. Particularly in this day and age, there is virtually no privacy. Even ordinary stuff that most people take for granted like going for a coffee with friends or going for a walk on your own becomes very difficult.”
Sturgeon’s Political Future
Sturgeon’s approval ratings are reportedly the lowest they’ve been since she’s been in office. Regardless, many political figures in Scotland, as well as the U.K., have applauded her and her historic service as First Minister.
There are still several unknowns moving forward. There is still no confirmation on who will take over the position. However, Sturgeon did say that she will serve until someone else is elected.
The push for Scotland’s independence is hanging in limbo as well, and no one knows what it’ll look like without Sturgeon’s leadership. She did mention, however, that she does not intend to leave politics fully and will still fight for the cause as a lawmaker in Parliament.
Sturgeon said the support for Scottish independence needs to be solidified and grow.
“To achieve that we need to reach across the divide in Scottish politics,” she said. “And my judgment now is that this needs a new leader.”