By David Bond
Financial Times – 5 April 2018
North Korea is unlikely to abandon its nuclear weapons programme, despite the possibility of talks between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to a report by British MPs. With North and South Korea poised to hold their first top-level summit in more than a decade this month, Mr Kim has indicated he may be prepared to consider de-nuclearisation in an effort to end the North Korean nuclear crisis.
The apparent commitment to discuss the weapons came during Mr Kim's surprise visit to Beijing for talks with Chinese President Xi Jin-ping last week, according to China's Xinhua news agency. However, the UK's Defence Committee said it was "unconvinced" that the inter-Korean summit and potential talks with the US would result in Mr Kim giving up Pyongyang's nuclear weapons.
"North Korea has invested too much effort and treasure in nuclear and missile technology to abandon it all at the moment of success,"
the Defence Committee said. Since the beginning of the year the international diplomatic push has helped to defuse an escalating crisis triggered by a series of successful long range missile tests by Pyongyang. These raised the possibility that North Korea could now hit the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.
In their report, the MPs said North Korea was already likely to have the capability to hit the UK with its Hwasong 14 and 15 intercontinental ballistic missiles. But they cast doubt on whether Pyongyang had mastered the technology to miniaturise a nuclear warhead so that it could be installed on to an ICBM, or whether such warheads could survive re-entry into the earth's atmosphere.
Despite this, Earl Howe, the Minister of State for Defence, told the committee:
"Our judgment is that it will be probably be six to 18 months before [North Korea] have an ICBM capability that is capable of reaching the coast of the United States or indeed ourselves."
Julian Lewis, the Conservative MP who chairs the Defence Committee, said that while Mr Kim was "ruthless" he was "rational" and "not insane", and could be persuaded to reach a deal to avert a crisis.
"If North Korea cannot be persuaded to give up its quest for nuclear capabilities, we will have to deal with it in the way we have in the past – containment and deterrence,"
he added. The Defence Committee's report went on to warn of the additional threat posed by North Korea's increasingly sophisticated cyber-offensive capability. It highlighted last summer's Wannacry attack, which caused serious disruption to the NHS and had been attributed by the UK government to Pyongyang.
The MPs said more public money should be found to boost the UK's cyber-defence programmes as part of a wide-reaching review of Britain's military capabilities, but cautioned it should not come at the expense of other parts of the Armed Forces, which were already feeling the financial squeeze.
"New threats require new investment rather than simply seeking to 'balance the books' by sacrificing conventional capabilities,"
the report said.
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'NORTH KOREA IS "ALMOST CERTAIN" TO HAVE BALLISTIC MISSILES THAT COULD REACH UK BY 2019, WARN MPs'
Kim Jong-un 'unlikely' to target UK as he does not see it as a threat, Defence Select Committee says
Independent Online – 5 April 2018
North Korea is "almost certain" to develop nuclear weapons capable of reaching UK shores within the next 18 months, an influential committee of MPs has said. A report by the Commons Defence Select Committee said it was likely that Pyongyang could already reach the UK with intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could potentially carry nuclear warheads by 2019 if North Korea's weapons tests continue apace.
However, it said Kim Jong-un showed no sign of wanting to target the UK with nuclear weapons – as he knows a nuclear exchange would lead to "North Korea's annihilation" – and suggested the ruler could be reasoned with as he was "ruthless ... but rational".
The report, authored by cross-party MPs who started taking evidence last year, said: "We believe it is obvious to North Korea that launching such weapons would lead inescapably to devastating military consequences from the US, South Korea and other countries too.
"It would result in the downfall - indeed the annihilation of the regime: the polar opposite of what Kim Jong-un is seeking to achieve. He is ruthless, like other Communist dictators before him, but he is rational."
The committee said a nuclear strike against the UK seems "highly unlikely", adding:
"We do not believe that North Korea regards the UK as a primary target-its goal being to threaten the United States mainland (although also bringing the UK within range of its missiles) in the event of hostilities on the Peninsula."
North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests in recent years, amid escalating tensions with both South Korea and the United States over its efforts to become a nuclear state. However, Kim Jong-un appears to have put aside some hostility by agreeing to meet US President Donald Trump next month, and he is now said to be "committed to denuclearisation".
MPs said a major cyber-attack was a greater threat to the UK than nuclear war, pointing to the Wannacry hit on NHS computes last year, which was blamed on North Korea. The report said:
"It is likely that North Korea has already successfully attacked the UK with the Wannacry ransomware, although we agree with the Government that the UK was probably not intended to be the principal target.
"Nevertheless, the Wannacry attack highlighted basic vulnerabilities in UK information technology systems.
"With North Korea unconcerned by who gets hurt when it lashes out, the UK will continue to be at risk from North Korean cyber-attacks."
The worldwide ransomware attack hit NHS hospitals, businesses and banks across the world last May.
Committee chair Dr Julian Lewis said:
"The nuclear and cyber threats posed by North Korea are typical of the new and intensifying dangers confronting the UK.
"Yet, new threats require extra investment-not the usual process of simply balancing the books by sacrificing conventional capabilities which are still needed to deal with ongoing older threats.
"There is cross-party consensus that we need to invest much more than the NATOminimum of 2 per cent of GDP.
"A target nearer 3 per cent is essential to fill existing holes in the defence budget and counter re-emerging state-based threats from Russia and North Korea."
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'NORTH KOREA "COULD HAVE MISSILE TO REACH UK SHORES WITHIN MONTHS" '
Kim Jong-un is ruthless but rational, say MPs
BBC News Online – 5 April 2018
North Korea will almost certainly be able to reach UK shores with an intercontinental ballistic missile within six to 18 months, MPs have said. However, the Commons Defence Select Committee report said there was as yet no evidence that North Korea could arm these missiles with nuclear warheads.
MPs, who have been investigating the threat posed by North Korea, added that such a strike seemed "highly unlikely". They described the country's ruler, Kim Jong-un, as "ruthless but rational". He was
"ruthless, like other Communist dictators before him, but he is rational"
and could be
"dissuaded from the use of nuclear weapons, by means of a policy of deterrence and containment",
the report said.
North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests, and has a ballistic missile that experts believe could put the whole of the US in striking range. In doing so, Pyongyang said it had achieved its mission of becoming a nuclear state. However, last month, after months of mutual hostility, Mr Kim was said to be "committed to denuclearisation" as he and US President Donald Trump agreed to talks, in an unprecedented move.
Despite the developments, the MPs' report said North Korea was unlikely to abandon its weapon programme and would achieve its goal of posing a nuclear threat to its opponents soon. The committee said a North Korean nuclear strike against the UK seemed "highly unlikely", given its focus on threatening the US.
"It is obvious to North Korea that launching such weapons would lead inescapably to devastating military consequences,"
the report goes on. If there were conflict in the region, the UK was unlikely to stand aside and would assist the US, it said. The MPs' report issued a further warning that the UK could be the target of cyber-attacks from the regime. North Korea was believed to be behind last May's Wannacry attack, which affected NHS hospitals, businesses and banks across the world causing billions of dollars of damage.
Committee Chairman Julian Lewis said the threats posed by the regime were typical of the intensifying dangers confronting the UK and underlined the need to spend more on Defence. He told the BBC he wanted to see spending increased from 2% of GDP to nearer 3% to cope with new cyber and nuclear threats, as well as older ones.
* * *
'NORTH KOREA WILL SOON HAVE MISSILES CAPABLE OF REACHING UK, MPs WARN'
By David Mercer
Sky News Online – 5 April 2018
North Korea is "almost certain" to have ballistic missiles within six to 18 months that can reach the UK, MPs have warned. The weapons could potentially carry nuclear warheads and Britain has only a limited missile defence system if an attack was launched, according to a report by the Commons Defence Select Committee.
"It is a reasonable assumption that North Korea can already reach the UK with ballistic missiles which could potentially carry nuclear warheads,"
the report says.
"In any case, it is almost certain to be able to do so within the next six to 18 months if it continues its programme at the current rate of development."
"The UK has only a limited ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability, however, if North Korea decided to launch a missile at the UK."
North Korea has yet to demonstrate it can arm intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads but it has made in the last two years, the cross-party committee said. A North Korean nuclear strike against the UK seems "highly unlikely", however, given its focus on threatening the United States, it added.
The Ministry of Defence does not consider the UK to be a target of North Korea because Kim Jong Un's regime does not believe Britain is a threat, according to the report. The Government is now investigating the use of the anti-missile systems on the Royal Navy's six Type 45 destroyers and developing a new land-based radar to detect ballistic missiles.
The committee warned that a "reckless" cyber-attack on the UK by North Korea is far more likely, such as the Wannacry ransomware attack which hit NHS hospitals last May. If there were a conflict in the region, the UK would have no legal obligation to provide military assistance but it is unlikely it would stand aside in the event of North Korean aggression, the report said.
Committee chairman Julian Lewis said the threats posed by North Korea were
"typical of the new and intensifying dangers confronting the UK".
"There is cross-party consensus that we need to invest much more than the NATO minimum of 2% of GDP.
"A target nearer 3% is essential to fill existing holes in the defence budget and counter re-emerging state-based threats from Russia and North Korea."
The report – called Rash or Rational? North Korea And The Threat It Poses – has been published ahead of a potential summit in May between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
* * *
'NORTH KOREA WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY HAVE A MISSILE THAT CAN HIT THE UK "WITHIN MONTHS", MPs WARN'
Missiles could carry nuclear warheads which the UK has only a limited capability to defend, a Commons Defence Select Committee report stated
By Natalie Evans
Mirror Online – 5 April 2018
North Korea will almost certainly have developed an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the UK within six to 18 months, MPs have warned. Missiles could carry nuclear warheads – which the UK has only a limited capability to defend – although the ability to do so has not yet been proven, a Commons Defence Select Committee report stated.
However, MPs added that such a missile strike seemed "highly unlikely" as the North Korean regime does not see the UK as a threat. They said Kim Jong-un is
"ruthless, like other Communist dictators before him, but he is rational"
"can be dissuaded from the use of nuclear weapons, by means of a policy of deterrence and containment".
But it adds:
"The Ministry of Defence does not consider that the UK will be a target of North Korean nuclear missiles, as its regime does not believe the UK to be a threat."
The focus of North Korean military planning is mainly the US and South Korea, it says.
"If there were a conflict in the region, the UK would have no legal obligation to provide military assistance. Yet, in the event of North Korean aggression against South Korea and/or against the United States, it is unlikely we would stand aside."
North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests, and has a ballistic missile that experts believe could put the whole of the US in striking range. In doing so, Pyongyang claims to have achieved its mission of becoming a nuclear state. However, last month, after months of rising tensions between North Korea and the US, Kim reportedly said he was committed to "denuclearisation" and to suspending nuclear or missile tests.
The dictator is due to meet President Donald Trump in May to discuss denuclearisation, although a time and place have not been set. Kim met Chinese President Xi Jin-ping in a surprise visit to Beijing this week, his first trip outside the isolated North since he came to power in 2011.
Whitehall chiefs have already drawn up plans to deploy British forces if war breaks out on the peninsula, a Defence Minister suggested earlier this year. Lord Howe said to MPs:
"It would be very strange if I were tell you there were no deployment plans. I can tell you there's been no lack of discussion in the Ministry of Defence about various scenarios."
Refusing to "go into terrific detail ... about operational issues", he confirmed the plans examined the sustainability of a war, and its impact on the UK's existing military engagements around the globe.
"All of that would have to be factored in to the plans,"
he admitted. Pyongyang would be "met with an overwhelming response" by an "absolutely united" world if Kim unleashed a nuke bomb, he claimed.
"The United Sates, South Korea and others have formidable military forces in the region,"
"Any rational person would be deterred in the knowledge that use of a nuclear device would be catastrophic for them".
Outlining the threat from the pariah regime, the Tory peer said:
"It is probably six to 18 months before they will have an ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) capable of reaching the coast of the United States, or indeed ourselves."
"The UK has substantial interests in that region – there are many UK citizens based in that region, either permanently or temporarily – so clearly UK interests are engaged in this whole arena. That has to be taken very seriously. We are dealing with a State where all the strategic decisions are in the hands of one man."
Lord Howe revealed Whitehall's fears of a "catastrophic" mistake if the North Koreans carry out an atmospheric test of a nuke bomb.
"It would be a very dangerous thing to do, not least due to the risk of the device detonating at a lower altitude than was intended,"
he told MPs. Experts have previously claimed North Korea already had a weapon which could hit the US. But the peer said:
"A nuclear strike capability depends on marrying up the ballistic missile with the warhead, and that is, we judge, a work in progress."
The UK was ready to support allies in confronting the rogue regime – if a plan was backed by the United Nations, Foreign Office Minister Mark Field said. Plans were ready to pull out UK citizens from the region if war breaks out, he confirmed. Mr Field also signalled his opposition to claims the Government could axe the Royal Navy's two amphibious assault ships, HMS Bulwark and Albion, which are key to evacuations.
He told committee Chairman Julian Lewis:
"As you know you have a lot of support from the many other Members of Parliament across the political divide for making a case, even in these difficult times, whether in relation to the Korean peninsula or elsewhere that we need to prepare for the unexpected."