North Korea Missile Test Funny

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AdvertisementWASHINGTON — North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday that flew both higher and longer than previous such launches, a bold act of defiance against President Trump after he put the country back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.The president reacted cautiously to news of the launch, stating, “It is a situation that we will handle.”But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed greater concern, emphasizing what he said were technical advances on display in the 53-minute flight, which began when the missile was launched northeast of the capital, Pyongyang, and ended nearly 600 miles to the east, when it landed in the Sea of Japan.

“It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,” Mr. Mattis said in the White House, where he was taking part in a budget meeting with the president and Republican congressional leaders.“The bottom line is, it’s a continued effort to build a threat — a ballistic missile threat that endangers world peace, regional peace, and certainly, the United States,” the defense secretary said.

North Korea said Wednesday that it had successfully tested its Hwasong-15, a newly developed ICBM that it said could deliver heavy nuclear warheads anywhere in the continental United States.The country called the new missile its “most powerful” ICBM, saying it “meets the goal of the completion of the rocket weaponry system” North Korea has been developing for decades. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, watched the launch, a broadcaster said, reading a prepared statement on the North’s Central Television.

Experts said this latest launch — which landed west of the northern end of Honshu, Japan’s largest island — exhibited characteristics that underscored the increasing sophistication of North Korea’s program.The missile flew higher and for a longer duration than two previous intercontinental ballistic missile launches, which flew for 37 minutes on July 4 and for 47 minutes on July 28.David Wright, a scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile performed better than the two fired in July, and exhibited a potential range of more than 8,000 miles, able to reach Washington or any other part of the continental United States.

The U.S. has a system in place guarding it from intercontinental ballistic missiles. But it's by no means foolproof. Here's why.Published OnNov. 29, 2017“It’s pretty impressive,” Dr. Wright said of the test flight. “This is building on what they’ve done before. It’s muscle-flexing to show the U.S. that they’re going to continue to make progress.”However, Dr. Wright noted that in an effort to increase the vehicle’s range, the North Koreans might have fitted it with a mock payload that weighed little or next to nothing.

So the distance traveled, while impressive, does not necessarily translate into a working intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a thermonuclear warhead.For all the evidence of technical advancements, a senior White House official said the significance of the launch should not be overstated, given the number of missile tests North Korea has carried out this year. The White House had expected some form of retaliation after it put the North back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism last week.

Mr. Trump, officials said, will stick to his policy of rallying nations to apply economic pressure on North Korea, backed up by the threat of military action. In a statement, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson condemned the launch. But he added, “Diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now.”The launch came in the middle of the night on the peninsula, with less advance warning, according to experts.

Aerial photographs of North Korean launch sites did not show missiles waiting on launchpads to be fueled, although Japanese officials had reported that radio telemetry pointed to a possible launch.Some experts theorized that North Korea was now fueling missiles horizontally, before they are placed on the launchpad. In the past, it went through a lengthier process of rolling a missile onto a launchpad, filling it with liquid fuel and then launching it — steps that could take days.

“This shortens the time from when they become visible to when they go in the air, and makes it less likely that the U.S. will be able to strike before it launches,” said Rodger Baker, a vice president of strategic analysis with Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company.American officials offered no proof of the horizontal fueling theory, but they acknowledged that North Korea is searching for ways to get around the United States’ ability to mount a pre-emptive strike.

Mr. Mattis noted that South Korea had fired several “pinpoint missiles” into the water after the launch “to make certain North Korea understands that they could be taken under fire by our ally.”Although it was the third time that the South had fired missiles in response to a North Korean missile test, this response was more muscular, officials said, with South Korea firing from a land-based missile battery, a Navy destroyer and an F-16 fighter jet.

It was meant to show that the South had multiple ways of hitting a North Korean missile on the launchpad in a pre-emptive strike, according to South Korean military officials.After the launch, the United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting on the issue for Wednesday afternoon.Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters that the launch appeared to be “yet again, a reckless act by a regime which is more intent on building up its ballistic missile nuclear capability than it is on looking after its own people.

”President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan each called meetings of their national security councils to discuss the North’s latest provocation. Mr. Trump called both leaders on Tuesday, at their request, according to the White House.Unlike the launches over the summer, when the missiles flew over Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, the government did not issue cellphone alerts to warn its citizens.

In Washington, a spokesman for the Defense Department, Col. Robert Manning of the Army, said that the launch “did not pose a threat to North America, our territories or our allies,” and added that the American commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan “remains ironclad.”Mr. Trump, who has in the past insulted Mr. Kim and threatened “fire and fury” that would “totally destroy” that country, avoided threats of military retaliation against the North on Tuesday.

But he did not hesitate to use the specter of a military confrontation in Asia as leverage against the Democrats in the budget wars in Washington.The missile launch, he predicted, would “have a huge effect on Schumer and Pelosi,” referring to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the chambers’ Democratic leaders, both of whom boycotted his budget meeting.

“If you look at the military, we want strong funding for the military,” Mr. Trump said. “They don’t.”North Korea has persisted in its nuclear weapons and missile development despite nine rounds of sanctions that the Security Council has imposed since its first nuclear test in 2006.This year, the North has increased the frequency and daring of its missile tests, sending two missiles over Japan in August and September, while demonstrating technical progress that suggested it had developed the ability to strike the continental United States.

In the wake of a Sept. 3 underground nuclear test — the sixth by North Korea — the United Nations Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions against the country.In the nearly three months since that test, as leaders of North Korea and the United States have exchanged insults, the world has braced for another show of force by the North.Mr. Trump warned that if North Korea threatened the United States or its allies, Washington would have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” and he mockingly referred to Mr.

Kim as “rocket man.”Mr. Kim responded by calling Mr. Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” and his foreign minister later warned that Mr. Kim could order the test of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.Mark Landler and Helene Cooper reported from Washington, and Choe Sang-Hun from Seoul. Reporting was contributed by Motoko Rich from Tokyo, and William J. Broad and Rick Gladstone from New York.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Missile’s 53-Minute Test Flight Is Longest Yet by North Korea. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | SubscribeAdvertisement

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The Wall Street Journal responds to reports of a successful ICBM test by North Korea with predictable calls for regime change: The best option is a comprehensive strategy to change the Kim regime, as former Undersecretary of State Robert Joseph has argued. Washington must strengthen deterrence and build out missile defenses, revive the Bush Administration’s antiproliferation dragnet, convince countries in the region to cut their ties with North Korea, consider shooting down future Korean test missiles, and spread news about the regime’s crimes to people in the North.

Threatening North Korea with regime change would do nothing to reduce or eliminate threats from North Korea, but it would confirm the regime’s leadership in its conviction that it needs its nuclear weapons and missile programs to fend off an attack. Nothing makes a regime obsessed with its own survival less likely to compromise or negotiate than vowing to overthrow it, and besides attacking North Korea there is nothing that makes a North Korean attack more likely than making their government believe they have nothing left to lose.

The less secure the regime feels, the less likely it is to be deterred, so making a concerted effort to undermine them is one of the stupidest things the U.S. could do. If their government didn’t think that the U.S. and its allies were determined to get rid of them, they might be willing to make some concessions, but to reach that point the U.S. would at a minimum have to eschew all talk of regime change and reject the possibility of waging preventive war on the DPRK.

Seeking regime change in North Korea would be extremely dangerous and foolish. It would put millions of lives in jeopardy by risking war with the current regime. In the very unlikely event that this policy somehow “worked” as intended, it would still create massive upheaval that would swamp South Korea with an unmanageable refugee crisis. The preparations that would need to be made to cope with the fall of North Korea’s regime are frankly beyond the competence of the current administration, and might well be beyond the competence of any government, and we already know that the U.

S. is remarkably bad at preparing for what follows regime change. We should assume that China would be strongly opposed to a U.S. push for regime change on their doorstep, and by pushing for regime change the U.S. would risk sparking a war with a nuclear-armed major power. In the worst-case scenario, the North Korean leadership might also choose to use their nuclear weapons once they conclude that they aren’t going to survive anyway.

The WSJ editors assert that “three U.S. administrations have tried diplomacy and failed,” but that misrepresents the consistency of the U.S. effort and it misleads their audience about how things have turned out this way. Diplomacy with North Korea did have some success in limiting their nuclear program over twenty years ago, but the Bush administration’s attempt to force even bigger concessions through increased pressure backfired spectacularly and led to North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT and their first nuclear weapons test.

Since then, the U.S. has been trying to contain the fallout from that bit of short-sighted hard-line posturing. Pursuing an even more aggressive policy now isn’t going to succeed, and it might very well plunge the Koreas and the U.S. into a major war that would be a disaster for all involved.

Wilma Lawrence

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