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Thursday, 11 April 2013

From Today's Papers - 11 Apr 2013
North Korea readies missile test, South Korea and US raise alert level
Seoul: South Korean and US forces raised their alert status to "vital threat" Wednesday ahead of an expected North Korean missile test, with tensions wound tight during a five-day buildup to a key anniversary.

The North last week told foreign diplomats in Pyongyang they had until April 10 to consider evacuation, fuelling speculation of a launch between Wednesday and April 15 birthday celebrations for late founder Kim Il-Sung.

It could also coincide with high-profile visits by US Secretary of State John Kerry and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who will both be in Seoul on Friday.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se told parliament the launch could take place "anytime" and warned Pyongyang it risked triggering a fresh round of UN sanctions.

South Korean intelligence says the North has prepared two mid-range missiles for imminent launch from its east coast, despite warnings from ally China to avoid provocative moves at a time of soaring military tensions.

On Tuesday the North reiterated a warning that the peninsula was headed for "thermo-nuclear" war and advised foreigners to consider leaving South Korea.

The South Korea-US Combined Forces Command raised its "Watchcon" status from 3 to 2 to reflect indications of a "vital threat", Yonhap news agency said, citing a senior military official.

Watchcon 4 is in effect during normal peacetime, while Watchcon 3 reflects indications of an important threat. Watchcon 1 is used in wartime.

In a separate report, Yonhap quoted a government source as saying Pyongyang might be preparing "multiple" launches, after other launch vehicles were reportedly detected carrying shorter-range SCUD and Rodong missiles.

Although the North's warnings to embassies in Pyongyang and foreigners in the South were both largely shrugged off, there is growing global concern that sky-high tensions might trigger an incident that could swiftly escalate.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said during a visit to Rome that he had spoken to the Chinese leadership to try to calm tensions, and would discuss the issue with US President Barack Obama.

"The current level of tension is very dangerous, a small incident caused by miscalculation or misjudgement may create an uncontrollable situation," Ban said.

North Korea has wielded the "thermo-nuclear war" threat several times in recent months despite expert opinion that it is nowhere near developing such an advanced nuclear device.

The crisis on the Korean peninsula has been intensifying almost daily since the North's nuclear test in February, which drew toughened UN sanctions.

Incensed by ongoing South Korean-US military exercises, Pyongyang has accused Washington and Seoul of preparing an invasion and threatened dire military actions ranging from artillery barrages to nuclear strikes.

South Korea last went to Watchcon 2 around the time of the North's nuclear test, and its long-range rocket launch last December.

The Watchcon system solely relates to surveillance levels and is separate from the Defcon system of military preparedness.

The mid-range missiles mobilised by the North are reported to be untested Musudan models with an estimated range of anywhere up to 4,000 kilometres (2,485 miles).

That would cover any target in South Korea and Japan, and possibly even US military bases on the Pacific island of Guam.

Japan, whose armed forces have been authorised to shoot down any North Korean missile headed towards its territory, has deployed Patriot missiles in its capital as a pre-emptive defence measure.

The North's official Rodong Sinmun daily on Wednesday accused Tokyo of "military adventurism" and warned it against siding with the United States.

"The Korean People's Army is fully capable of blowing up US military bases not only in Japan but in other areas of the Asia-Pacific region," it said.

A top US military commander, Admiral Samuel Locklear, said he favoured shooting down a North Korean missile only if it threatened the United States or Washington's allies in the region.
Pakistan tests nuclear-capable Hatf-IV missile
Islamabad: Pakistan today successfully test-fired nuclear-capable Hatf-IV ballistic missile, with a range of 900 km, that can hit targets in India.

Officials said the launch of the Hatf-IV, also known as the Shaheen-1, would strengthen the country's deterrence capabilities "manifold".

The launch of was described by the military as successful.
"The missile incorporates a series of improvements in range and technical parameters of the existing missile," the military said in a statement.

The Hatf-IV is capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads to a range of 900 km. The "impact point" of the launch was at sea, the statement said.

The launch was witnessed by Strategic Plans Division chief Lt Gen (retired) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, who said the improved version of the Hatf-IV "has consolidated and strengthened Pakistan's deterrence abilities manifold".

Senior military officers, scientists and engineers were also present at the launch.

Since last year, Pakistan has tested a wide array of missiles, from the Hatf-IX tactical missile with a range of 60 km to the Hatf-V ballistic missile with a reach of 1,300 km.
Israel set to bag another mega Indian defence deal
NEW DELHI: Israel seems all set to bag yet another mega defence deal to equip all the 356 infantry battalions of the Indian Army with third-generation anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs). While Russia is far ahead in the lead, Israel is trying to stave off a strong challenge from the US to remain the second largest arms supplier to India.

The Rs 15,000-crore project will involve an initial direct acquisition of the man-portable "tank killers", with a strike range of 2.5-km, followed by transfer of technology (ToT) to defence PSU, Bharat Dynamics, for large-scale indigenous manufacture.

The Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), led by A K Antony, took up the procurement of the fire-and-forget Israeli "Spike" ATGMs for clearance on April 2. But the case was kept "pending" after being referred for "a technology scan" since it was "a single vendor situation" without any competition, said sources.

The DAC can approve acquisition of a state-of-the-art weapon system, aimed to gain a qualitative edge over adversaries, in a single-vendor situation only after "a technology scan" is conducted by HQ IDS (integrated defence staff) in consultation with DRDO. "The scan basically certifies it's not possible to get the weapon system from anywhere else. The DAC will consider the case after the scan," said a source.

The 1.13-million Army is pushing the "critical" project since it has a huge shortfall of 44,000 ATGMs of different types, half its authorised inventory at present. Moreover, both Pakistan and China — the latter with third-generation ATGMs — have zoomed ahead in this capability of stemming enemy armoured attacks.

The "buy global" project for the shoulder-fired ATGMs had begun — after DRDO failed to deliver an indigenous system — with the Israeli Spike being pitted against the American FGM-148 Javelin missiles. But the US could not assure India of providing full ToT to allow indigenous production. Consequently, only the Spike ATGMs underwent extensive field trials conducted by the Army.

The force is keen to begin inducting the new ATGMs soon to ensure each infantry battalion deployed in the plains has eight ATGM launchers (each with 12 missiles), and those in the mountains have at least two, by the end of the 12th Plan (2017). "Even mechanised infantry battalions will get them later," said the source.

At present, the Army is making do with second-generation Milan (2-km range) and Konkurs (4-km) ATGMs, produced by BDL under licence from French and Russian companies, which are wire-guided and do not have fire-and-forget capabilities.

A part of the deficiency will be met by the induction of the long-delayed indigenous third-generation Nag ATGMs, which are vehicle and helicopter-mounted, with a 4-km strike range. The Army has already placed an initial order for 443 Nag missiles and 13 Namicas (Nag missile tracked carriers).
Seventh pay panel to meet ex-servicemen's aspirations: Army chief
Barrackpore (West Bengal): Conceding that the current pension benefits for the country's ex-servicemen are not sufficient, army chief General Bikram Singh Sunday said he would try to ensure their aspirations and requirements are fulfilled when the Seventh Pay Commission comes up.

"I am deeply involved in meeting the aspirations and requirements of ex-servicemen. I know that currently what you are getting is not enough. But you know about the current financial conditions in the whole world. So, taking into account the condition of the government's coffers, we have to deal with it," Gen Singh said while speaking at a mega ex-servicemen's rally here.

"However, I can assure you that when the Seventh Pay Commission will be set up and the economic conditions will start improving, all your aspirations and requirements would be included in it," he said.

About 10,000 ex-servicemen, war veterans, disabled soldiers and war widows (veer naris) were present on the occasion.

The Army chief said he had taken up the issue of pension benefits with the central government for the welfare of the ex-servicemen.

Lauding the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government for supporting the army on welfare issues, he said it was giving "full support" for the re-employment of ex-servicemen.

"I would like to inform you that the Indian Army is getting full support from the West Bengal government. When I met the chief minister earlier, then I saw her love and concern for the Army," he said.

Gen. Singh said the army would set up old-age homes for ex-servicemen in every command across the country.

"We are opening old-age homes in every command. We are currently experimenting in Chandigarh, where the first old-age home was built," he added.
Night-vision devices for Indian Army approved
Night-vision devices for Indian Army approved
New Delhi: The Defence Ministry today approved a Rs 2,820 crore proposal to provide night-vision devices to the Army to enable its tanks and infantry combat vehicles to have capability to fight in both day and night conditions.

A meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister A K Antony also approved proposals to upgrade the 130 mm artillery guns of the Army along with amendments in procurement procedure to boost indigenisation in defence production, Defence Ministry sources said here.

Under the plans to do away with the night blindness of Army's mechanised fleet including the Russian-origin T-90 and T-72 tanks and the BMP Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICV), around 5,000 thermal imaging sights would be procured from defence PSU Bharat Electronics limited, they said.

For the T-72, which are the main stay of the Indian Army, 2,000 pieces of TI sights would be procured for Rs 1,000 crore while 1,200 pieces would be bought for the T-90 Main Battle Tanks for Rs 960 crore.

1,780 pieces of TI sights would be inducted for the BMP Infantry Combat Vehicles for Rs 860 crore, they said.

The Army has been worried over night-fighting capabilities of its armoured columns and reports had earlier suggested that only 50 per cent of the tank fleet of the forces had this ability.

Meanwhile, the Ministry also cleared a proposal to upgrade the existing inventory of M-46 130mm artillery guns to 155mm guns through the Ordnance Factory Board.

The OFB has plans of modernising its facilities under a Rs 15,000 crore plan in the ongoing 12th Defence Plan.

The DAC also discussed the amendments in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) under which efforts to boost indigenisation in defence sector would be encouraged.

The amendments are based on the Ravinder Gupta Committee report on boosting indigenisation which has given suggestions to give the first right of refusal to the indigenous industry for the weapon system requirement of the armed forces.

The DPP will also focus on bringing more changes in the ship-building sector in the country to increase the production capabilities of the Indian shipyards to construct ships at a faster rate.

However, discussions on the amendments remained inconclusive and would be taken up again in the next DAC on April 20.

The DAC also approved a Navy proposal for procuring equipment for the four large size amphibious warfare vessels to be procured by it at a cost of Rs 25,000 crore.

A proposal for procuring anti-tank weaponry for the armed forces was also discussed during the meeting.
‘No Indian troop pullout in Sudan’
Five Indian Army personnel, including an officer of the rank of captain and four other PBORs, who were on UN peacekeeping duties sustained injuries when they were attacked by rebels in South Sudan on Tuesday morning, Indian Army sources said. Of these five injured personnel, four suffered gunshot injuries while one suffered splinter injuries. Casualty evacuation efforts were launched immediately, with both the injured personnel as well as the bodies of the martyred soldiers being airlifted by three UN helicopters to the UN mission hospital at Juba in South Sudan. Seven civilians were also reportedly killed in the rebel attack. Defence sources said that there would be no pullout of Indian troops on UN peacekeeping duties from South Sudan.
Meanwhile, in a statement, the ministry of defence (MoD) said, “In an incident in South Sudan at 11.30 am (IST), a contingent of the Indian peacekeeping force under the UN Mission in South Sudan was ambushed by a rebel group while escorting a UN convoy. In the ensuing gunbattle, five Indian peacekeepers — one officer, one JCO and 3 jawans — were martyred.”
The MoD further said, “Defence minister A.K. Antony has expressed his condolences at the unfortunate loss of lives of Indian soldiers in the incident. Mr Antony has also conveyed his grief to the families of the fallen soldiers and lauded their bravery in the highest traditions of the Indian Army and in contribution to the peace and security in the world. The bodies of the deceased soldiers are being brought to India for their final rites with full military honours. The Indian Army has contributed to UN peacekeeping operations around the world for over six decades and has currently over 7,000 troops in four missions.” Defence sources said about 144 Indian troops have died so far in earlier attacks while on UN peacekeeping duties.
According to sources, there are about 2,300 Indian troops (two battalions) on UN peacekeeping duties in South Sudan. While one battalion is based in Jonglei, the other is based in Malakkal, upper Nile, on the border with Sudan. After South Sudan attained independence, Indian troops were first stationed in the new nation from September 2011. The Indian troops who were attacked on Monday were posted in the country from September 2012.
According to foreign news agency reports, top UN envoy in South Sudan Hilde Johnson said in a statement that five peacekeepers and seven civilians working with the UN mission were killed while at least nine additional peacekeepers and civilians were injured. South Sudan’s military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said the attack took place on the UN convoy travelling between the South Sudanese towns of Pibor and Bor on Tuesday morning.

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