Monday, April 3, 2017

High Level Defector: N Korea Is Ready To Use Nukes, Syrian Jets Bomb Rebel-Held Eastern Damascus Suburbs, Iran Arms Manufacturing Facilities In Lebanon A New Kind Of Threat

High level defector: North Korea is ready to use nukes

Speaking with NBC Nightly News host Lester Holt in an exclusive interview from Seoul, South Korea, Thae Yong Ho is considered the highest profile defector from Pyongyang in over two decades.
“Kim Jong Un is desperate in maintaining his rule by relying on his [development of] nuclear weapons and ICBM,” Thae said. "Once he sees that there is any kind of sign of a tank or an imminent threat from America, then he would use his nuclear weapons with ICBM.”
Thae added an ominous warning: 
“If Kim Jong Un has nuclear weapons and ICBMs, he can do anything. So, I think the world should be ready to deal with this kind of person."

Though Thae was never involved directly in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, his service as Pyongyang’s ambassador to the United Kingdom prior to defection has given him a unique insight into the mind of Kim Jong-Un.

In a previous interview with the Financial Times deputy White House national security adviser K.T. McFarland said there is a ‘real possibility’ that North Korea will be able to hit the U.S. with a nuclear-armed missile by 2020.
Over the weekend President Trump addressed the ongoing escalation with North Korea by threatening swift U.S. response and pressuring China to take action in Washington’s stead.

A senior North Korean defector has told NBC News that the country's "desperate" dictator is prepared to use nuclear weapons to strike the United States and its allies. 
Thae Yong Ho is the most high profile North Korean defector in two decades, meaning he is able to give a rare insight into the secretive, authoritarian regime. 
According to Thae, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is "desperate in maintaining his rule by relying on his [development of] nuclear weapons and ICBM." He was using an acronym for intercontinental ballistic missiles — a long range rocket that in theory would be capable of hitting the U.S.
Analysts are unsure exactly how close the regime is to achieving this aim, but a senior official told NBC News in January that his government was ready to test-fire an ICMB "at any time, at any place."

Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told NBC News that American officials were particularly troubled by this latest threat. 
"They have the nuclear capability — they've demonstrated that," he said. "And then, where they're going with the miniaturization of that, whether they can actually weaponize a missile, that's what's driving the current concern."
Thae's interview with NBC News comes against a backdrop of rising tensions surrounding North Korea, which has significantly increased its missile and nuclear tests under Kim's rule.

President Donald Trump told the Financial Times newspaper on Monday that "something had to be done" about North Korea. This came after Defense Secretary James Mattis said the country "has got to be stopped" and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said military action was "on the table."

"It does feel more dangerous — I'll give you three reasons," according to Adm. James Stavridis, an NBC News analyst and dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts. "One is [Kim's] own precarious situation in command of the nation. Number two is the instability in South Korea. We've just seen the South Korean president indicted, arrested, and incarcerated."

"And, number three, a new and more aggressive American foreign policy coming from Washington," he added.

He added that "Kim Jong Un is a man who can do anything beyond the normal imagination" and that "the final and the real solution to the North Korean nuclear issue is to eliminate Kim Jong Un from the post." 
Kim came to power in 2012 and has defined his strongman premiership by the pursuit of a nuclear weapon that can hit the U.S. He has conducted more missile tests than in the rest of the country's history combined, and three of North Korea's five nuclear tests came under his watch. 
According to Thae, Kim is obsessed with obtaining nukes because he saw what happened to Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, both of whom abandoned their countries' weapons of mass destruction programs and then were overthrown by Western-backed forces.
Many analysts agree that Kim sees a nuclear weapon — and the retaliatory threat it poses — as an insurance policy against a similar strategy being pursued against him. 
"That's why Kim Jong Un strongly believes that only a nuclear weapon can guarantee his rule," Thae said. 

Syrian jets on Monday bombed residential areas in the eastern countryside of Damascus killing and injuring dozens in some of the heaviest bombing raids on the main rebel enclave near the capital in months, residents and activists said.
At least 22 people were killed and scores injured after four aerial raids hit a crowded district in the city of Douma, the main urban center of the Eastern Ghouta rebel stronghold to the east of the capital.
Many other bodies were still under the rubble, civil workers said.
The pro-opposition civil defense said on its twitter account that there were 21 raids alone on the other towns of Hamurya, Harasta and Saqba in the besieged Eastern Ghouta.
In the town of Saqba, just south of Douma, at least five people were killed when jets believed to be Russian struck a main market square in the town, two residents said. 
Social media footage by the civil defense showed volunteers and civilians carrying wounded on stretchers after they were extracted from under the rubble of destroyed buildings in the once teeming areas.
“We are civilians. Why are they hitting us? Jets are above us. There are no terrorists,” said a screaming young man in footage shown on pro-opposition Orient TV.
The Syrian army said on Monday it had hit at the heart of insurgent positions in Jobar, Arbeen and Zamalka and areas in the Eastern Ghouta, knocking down missile launchers and killing scores of “terrorists.” 
The Syrian army has said it is fighting against foreign financed terrorists who fire mortars on government-held areas in the capital. They deny they target civilians.

Reports that Iran is building workshops and facilities to make advanced rockets inside Lebanon is a “huge development” that constitutes a “whole new kind of threat,” Chagai Tzuriel, director- general of the Intelligence Ministry, said Monday.

Tzuriel, at a briefing organized by The Israel Project, attributed the reports to a Kuwaiti newspaper, but seemed to accept their veracity. If true, it would mean the Iranians and Hezbollah are trying to get around the difficulty of transferring arms over land through Syria to Lebanon by manufacturing them there instead. Israel reportedly, on a number of occasions, has attacked convoys moving potentially “game-changing” armaments over land through Syria.

In addition to the weaponry, Iran continues to provide Hezbollah with $1 Billion a year. 

Today, Tzuriel said, the most important strategic issue in the region for Israel is not Iran's Nuclear capability, but rather "Iran in the region."

"The greatest state threat facing Israel is Iran," he said. "The greatest non-state threat comes from Hezbollah, it has the greatest damage potential. And the greatest non-state threat in terms of volatility is Hamas. Gaza is volatile both militarily, as well as from a humanitarian point of view." 

With that being said, the most important strategic arena right now is Syria, he added, calling it a "microcosm of much of the international regional and local relationships and power balances."

What happens in Syria - where the world superpowers are vying, as well as regional powers, local elements, and a diverse group of ethnic and religious groups - "will influence to a large extent what happens in the region and the world," he said. 

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