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North Korea Launches Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Near Japan's Coast

International Business Times

North Korea reportedly launched a ballistic missile that flew for 45 minutes and may have landed within 230 miles of Japan's coast Friday, according to reports. The Pentagon confirmed the United States detected the missile launch at approximately 10:45 a.m. EST, what would have been shortly before midnight in Japanese time. The type of missile launched has not been confirmed, but it is possible the latest in a series of attempts to develop a missile was capable of reaching the United States. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the missile may have landed within 230 miles of Japan's coast. He called for an emergency meeting of government officials.

Challenge Pyongyang's grip on information instead of using force, top North Korea defector says

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – The highest-level North Korean defector in two decades says America should bring change peacefully by challenging the totalitarian regime's grip on information rather than resorting to military action. As tensions soar over North Korea's nuclear weapons development and President Donald Trump prepares for his first trip to Asia, Thae Yong Ho offered rare insight into the reclusive North Korean system and the insecurities he says drove leader Kim Jong Un to ruthlessly purge ranks and accelerate nuclear weapons development. Speaking at a Washington think tank, Thae said that Kim, who was educated Switzerland, lacked the respect of North Korea's senior leadership after taking power in 2012 as the little-known, third son of his predecessor and father, Kim Jong Il. To build his legitimacy, Kim Jong Un championed the rapid progress toward a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile that could threaten the United States -- which now puts him on a path to confrontation with Trump. Thae said Kim's weapons development also reflected anxiety, after Arab Spring uprisings against authoritarian governments in the Mideast, about the possibility of the U.S. and other Western nations mounting a "humanitarian intervention" bombing campaign as occurred in Libya in 2011 and led to Moammar Gadhafi's ouster.

Normalizing the North Korean threat with malls and tourism at South Korean city beside the DMZ

The Japan Times

SEOUL – A half-hour's drive north of Seoul, along a highway lined with barbed wire, lie two shopping malls the size of several stadiums, a stone's throw from the world's most militarized border. The malls are in the city of Paju, gateway to the U.N. truce village of Panmunjom, where military officers from the combatants of the 1950-53 Korean war discuss armistice matters -- when the two sides are on speaking terms, which they aren't these days. "Fairy tales come true in Paju," is the advertising lure from the Korean Tourism Board. But it was nightmares that were all too true here during the Korean War, when Paju was the site of some of its fiercest battles. Paju is home to the country's only "enemies' cemetery," where the remains of Chinese and North Korean soldiers are buried.

North Korea Demands U.S.-South Korea Halt War Games

U.S. News

It's a demand North Korea has been making for decades: The United States and South Korea must immediately suspend their annual military exercises if there is to be peace on the Korean Peninsula. And, once again, it's a demand that is falling on deaf ears. Following the North's recent nuclear test and rocket launch, this year's exercises are bigger than ever. In the Koreas, the cycle of tensions is as predictable as the changing of the seasons -- they surge every spring, when Washington and Seoul hold their annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises. This year's drills, which are to continue through April, are not only bigger but also reportedly include for the first time training for precision strikes directed at the North's leadership and Kim Jong Un himself.

Key North Korean diplomat heads to Finland ahead of possible talks with U.S. and South Korea

The Japan Times

SEOUL/BEIJING – A senior North Korean diplomat left for Finland on Sunday for talks with former U.S. and South Korean officials, Yonhap News Agency reported, amid a series of diplomatic encounters ahead of a possible U.S.-North Korean summit. North Korea is pursuing its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions and has made no secret of its plans to develop a missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. It defends the programs as a necessary deterrent against a possible U.S. invasion. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea but denies any invasion plans. Tensions have eased in recent weeks, coinciding with North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics held in the South last month.