In the News – S. Korean, Russian envoys to discuss N. Korea’s nuclear programs

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In the News – S. Korean, Russian envoys to discuss N. Korea’s nuclear programs

SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) — Senior South Korean and Russian diplomats will hold one-day talks this week in Seoul to discuss possible ways to revive the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, a Seoul official said Monday.

Russia’s deputy chief envoy to the six-party talks, Grigory Logvinov, was scheduled to arrive in Seoul later Monday for a three-day visit and hold talks with South Korea’s top nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam on Tuesday, the senior official at Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

“During the talks, Ambassador Logvinov and Lim plan to hold in-depth discussions about North Korea’s nuclear issue and other overall matters with regard to North Korea,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

They will also discuss “the current state of the Korean Peninsula after North Korea’s failed rocket launch and ways to move forward on the North’s nuclear issue,” the official said.

The visit by Logvinov to Seoul also coincides with the Russian government’s move to write off 90 percent of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt of US$11 billion.

Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, were frozen in April when North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket.

The North’s failed launch ended a possible deal with the U.S. in which Pyongyang agreed to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in return for food aid by Washington. Such conditions had been considered necessary steps to reopen the six-party talks.

The six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear ambition have been stalled since late 2008. Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009.

In Seoul, the Russian envoy is also expected to discuss an ambitious plan to build a natural-gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea via North Korea, the ministry official said.

The gas project, which has been discussed for about 20 years but never has materialized due in part to security tensions, gained momentum after late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed his willingness to permit the envisioned pipeline to go through the nation during summit talks with then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in August last year.

Kim died of a heart attack last December, and his youngest son, Jong-un, took the helm of North Korea.

 

Original article can be found here.

Visiting North Korea during the Era of Kim Jong Un

In recent news, North Korea has prepared to launch a satellite into space. However, this move has been met with much antagonism by the United States because it seems to defy the motions of the United Nations should the satellite be a move to test missile technology that would one day send threats of nuclear warfare. The BBC’s broadcaster, Damian Grammaticas, who is based in Beijing, China, gained permission to enter North Korea at the time of this controversy, symbolic of the transparency with which the North Korean authorities intended to launch the satellite. In his BBC article, Grammaticas relates that the North Korean authorities wanted to launch the satellite in commemoration of the hundredth birthday of Kim Il Sung, the founding father of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Throughout his article, “Exploring North Korea’s Contradictions,” Grammaticas describes his impressions of the North Korean landscape. Visiting the countryside outside of Pyongyang, Grammaticas emphasizes the emptiness of the roads and the bleakness of the empty shop windows as he exits the city. Of the city itself, Grammaticas relays, “Being here, in the world’s last Stalinist state, feels like being transported back in time. North Korea often looks like a place marooned, a survivor from an age when Soviet republics, with their strongmen rulers, were common.” He then continues the article with a explanation of the preparation Pyongyang’s people made for the celebrations that would enliven the next few days – city repairs were made, flowers were assembled, roadsides were cleaned, images of Kim Il Sung were hung throughout the city, plans for the launch of the satellite were being settled. Continue reading

Two Years Later

Amidst the frenzy of North Korea’s recent rocket launch, another very important day came and passed. For many of you, this may have been just another day in your life. But whether you knew it or not, March 26th marked the second anniversary of the sinking of the Cheonan naval ship.

March 26th 2010 was just an average day for the 104 crew members of the Cheonan. They were on a routine patrol near Baekryong Island, which is an extremely tense maritime border with North Korea, when they were suddenly torpedoed. The ship tore apart into two and sank to the bottom of the sea, killing 46 soldiers. Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea ‘can’t have’ status of nation with nuclear weapons: Seoul

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In the News – N. Korea ‘can’t have’ status of nation with nuclear weapons: Seoul

SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) — North Korea “can’t have” the status of a nation possessing nuclear weapons, South Korea said Thursday, responding to a report that North Korea recently revised its constitution to proclaim itself as a nuclear-weapon state.

An official Web site run by North Korea and monitored by Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday in Japan, carried the full text of the reclusive communist nation’s revised constitution that included the term “a nuclear-armed state.”

“At first, nuclear-weapon state status is in line with the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but North Korea itself has admitted that it is not a member of the NPT,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

North Korea backed out of the NPT in early 2003, right after the outbreak of the so-called second nuclear crisis in late 2002.

Cho called on North Korea to “implement its commitments and give up all nuclear weapons programs from the September 19 joint statement.”

Under the 2005 agreement, North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear programs in return for security guarantees and economic assistance from five nations participating in the six-party talks. But Pyongyang boycotted follow-up negotiations by making a series of unacceptable demands.

There are concerns that North Korea, which conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, may soon carry out a third nuclear test to make amends for the failed launch of a long-range rocket on April 13.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions following the two nuclear tests.

“As North Korea continues to ignore promises with the international community and breach international laws, it will only deepen its isolation,” Cho said.

The text of the North’s amended constitution reads that its late leader Kim Jong-il, who died last December, “has turned our fatherland into an invincible state of political ideology, a nuclear-armed state and an indomitable military power, paving the ground for the construction of a strong and prosperous nation.” The revision was made during a parliamentary session in April.

The North’s previous constitution last revised on April 9, 2010 didn’t contain the term nuclear-armed state.

Some analysts in Seoul said the North Korean constitution’s proclamation of a “nuclear-armed state” is expected to cast further clouds over the prospects of resuming the long-stalled six-party talks that bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – U.S. Officials in Secret Visit to N.Korea Before Rocket Launch

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In the News – U.S. Officials in Secret Visit to N.Korea Before Rocket Launch

Two senior U.S. figures apparently flew to Pyongyang aboard a U.S. Air Force plane in a secret mission six days before North Korea’s failed rocket launch on April 13.

“At around 7:40 a.m. on April 7, a U.S. Air Force Boeing 737 entered North Korea,” a diplomatic source in Seoul said. “The aircraft flew from Guam and into North Korea along the same route on the West Sea used by former President Kim Dae-jung during his visit to the North back in 2000.”

Experts speculate that the plane carried Joseph Di Trani, a nuclear negotiator in the George W. Bush administration, and Sydney Seiler, a National Security Council advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The secret visit appears to have been a last-ditch effort by Washington to stop North Korea from pressing ahead with the rocket launch.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korea Releases Chinese Fisherman

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In the News – North Korea Releases Chinese Fisherman

BEIJING—A group of Chinese fishermen apparently detained by North Koreans nearly two weeks ago has been released, Chinese state media reported Sunday.

The state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Jiang Yaxian, Chinese counselor to North Korea, as saying the detained vessels and fishermen were on their way back to China.

The Xinhua report provided few details about the fishermen’s detention, and it remained unclear why the vessels were detained in the first place and whether Chinese authorities had agreed to pay a ransom in exchange for their release. Continue reading

In the News – Experts forecast imminenet provocations by Kim Jong-un

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In the News – Experts forecast imminenet provocations by Kim Jong-un

SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is likely to keep tensions with South Korea high and continue provocations against the South to help consolidate his power, experts in Seoul forecast Thursday.

Kim would also be very reluctant to pursue reform or open his isolated country out of fear such steps could lead to the collapse of his regime, Koo Bon-hak, a professor of Hallym University Graduate School of International Studies, said at a Seoul forum.

Kim has made frequent inspection trips to military units in an apparent attempt to bolster his support from the military since he took over the country following the December death of his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

“Instead of relying on the United States, South Korea should try to secure independent deterrence against North Korea” to cope with the North’s provocations, Koo said at the forum on the North Korean situation, organized by the private Sejong Institute think tank.

The U.S. keeps about 28,500 troops in South Korea to help deter North Korea’s possible aggression. South Korea has strengthened its defense posture following the North’s two deadly attacks on the South in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers.

Koo also said South Korea should strengthen ties with China, North Korea’s key ally and economic benefactor, to help Beijing nudge the North to pursue reform and openness.

China has repeatedly tried to coax its impoverished neighbor to follow in its footsteps in embracing reform similar to that which lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing’s rise to become the world’s second-largest economy. Continue reading

In the News – ‘North Korea may have aborted launch’

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In the News – ‘North Korea may have aborted launch’

By Kim Young-jin

North Korea may have intentionally crashed its long-range Unha-3 rocket last month due to problems in staging, a U.S. missile expert said Monday.

David Wright, a senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, put forward the possibility among a range of scenarios in an analysis of the failed April 13 launch that sent regional tensions soaring.

The rocket failed shortly after liftoff, dealing an embarrassing blow to the fledgling regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command said the first stage of the missile fell into the sea 165 kilometers west of Seoul, some 300 kilometers from the launch site. Local reports estimated the splashdown occurred closer to 400 kilometers from the site.

“North Korea reportedly announced prior to the launch that the rocket was equipped with a flight termination system that would allow operators to shut down the engines manually if the ground station detected a problem,” Wright wrote on 38 North, a website focused on North Korean affairs.

“It is possible that if, as some sources have suggested, the first stage burned to completion but there was a problem with staging, that the North may have aborted the flight at that point.

“For example, if the launcher was seen to be deviating from the intended trajectory, it is possible that it was destroyed intentionally.”

The move earned the North a U.N. Security Council statement that expanded sanctions on the cash-strapped country. Tensions remain high as Pyongyang has reportedly made some preparations to carry out a third nuclear test.

The expert said that based on open source information it remains impossible to determine the exact cause of the failure and that more data on possible irregularities in the flight path and operation of the engines would shed light on whether the flight was aborted.

If splashdown occurred at 300 kilometers, analysts say the failure likely occurred during the operation of the first stage, before staging took place.

The expert said a splashdown at 400 kilometers would raise another possibility.

“That would suggest that the first stage worked essentially as intended, but that ignition and separation of the second stage did not occur properly so that it fell with the first stage into the sea at this location,” he said, adding portions of the rocket could also have landed at both places.

The North insists the launch was meant to put a satellite into orbit for science. But it was widely condemned as a ballistic missile test amid concerns that Pyongyang is working to build long-range missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korea suspected of jamming flight signals in South

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In the News – North Korea suspected of jamming flight signals in South

(Reuters) – More than 250 flights in and out of South Korea have experienced GPS signal jamming since the weekend, with North Korea high on the list of suspects, officials said on Wednesday.

Similar jamming in the past was traced to the reclusive North, which last month breached U.S. Security Council resolutions with a failed long-range rocket launch and was blamed for cyber attacks on South Korean financial institutions last year.

None of the flights, including 11 operated by foreign airlines, was in danger, the Transport Ministry said, with automatic switching of navigation to alternative systems.

“As it happened at the time of (military) drills in 2010 and 2011, we suspect North Korea was engaged in jamming signals,” a government official said.

Officials at the Korea Communications Commission declined to comment whether North Korea was the source of the signal jamming but said it had been identified as the culprit in at least one similar incident.

A Defence Ministry official declined to comment on the source of the jamming but said the military’s equipment had not been affected.

North Korea has stepped up its rhetoric against the South in recent weeks, hurling personal insults at South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and threatening to reduce the capital Seoul to ashes.

It is expected to conduct a third nuclear test any day, possibly using a uranium device which would infuriate neighbouring countries and the United States which have been involved in talks to try to rein in its nuclear weapons programme.

The threat of cyber war from North Korea is seen in the South, one of the world’s most wired countries, as increasing in sophistication.

News reports said North Korea operates vehicle-mounted jamming devices that can disrupt signals up to 100 km (60 miles) away and is developing systems with further reach.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea believed to have enriched uranium for up to 6 bombs: expert

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In the News – N. Korea believed to have enriched uranium for up to 6 bombs: expert

SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) — North Korea is believed to now have enough large stocks of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium for up to six bombs, a local nuclear expert said Wednesday, amid growing concerns that the North may be ready for a new nuclear test.

The North has long been believed to have enough radioactive material for six to seven bombs using plutonium from its main nuclear complex located at Yongbyon, north of the capital Pyongyang. Since 2009, Pyongyang appears to have started relying on enrichment activities because of its dwindling stock of plutonium after two rounds of nuclear tests.

In November 2010, North Korea disclosed an industrial-scale uranium enrichment plant to a visiting U.S. scientist, claiming that the enrichment program is for peaceful energy development. Outside experts, however, believe that it gives the North a new source of fissile material to make atomic bombs. Continue reading

North Korea’s Embarrassing Rocket Launch

If you’ve kept up with the news at all, you may know about North Korea’s recent failed rocket launch. I know it’s been in the news quite a lot but I thought I’d provide a simplified version of what happened.

This past March, North Korea and the United States entered negotiations once again. The United States offered to provide 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance if North Korea would “freeze its nuclear and missile tests, along with uranium enrichment programs, and allow the return of U.N. nuclear inspectors.” This was big step both for North Korea and the U.S. because it meant that the North would possibly be giving up its biggest weapon and it also meant that the United States would be sending food aid to the impoverished country for the first time since 2009. It was also the first time North Korea and the U.S. had official talks since Kim Jong Un came to power. Thus, these negotiations had a lot of meaning because it would have determined DPRK’s future relationship with the United States. Continue reading

In the News – Students Targeted for Rocket ‘Rumors’

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In the News – Students Targeted for Rocket ‘Rumors’

North Korea detains university students over a failed rocket launch.

North Korean students work on their computers at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, April 11, 2012.

Authorities in North Korea are hunting down college students suspected of “spreading rumors” about a recent failed rocket launch amid warnings the reclusive state may stage a nuclear test.

North Korea defied international warnings and fired a long-range rocket on April 13 saying that it would carry a satellite into space, but the rocket crashed into the sea just minutes after takeoff, drawing condemnation from the U.S. and its allies who called the act a “provocative” move.

New leader Kim Jong Un had shrugged off international concerns and pushed ahead with the launch in conjunction with the 100th birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the deceased founder of the state.

Now, according to students, security personnel at some universities in North Korea are being instructed to take those who talk about the rocket failure into custody.

“The authorities are hunting down students who have spread rumors about the failed launch of the Kwangmyung-sung-3 [satellite] at the Hoeryong Teacher Training College (now renamed Kim Jong Suk Teacher Training College),” said one student from North Hamyong province, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Continue reading

In the News – U.S., allies urge sanctions for North Korea firms; China resists

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In the News – U.S., allies urge sanctions for North Korea firms; China resists

(Reuters) – The United States, European Union, South Korea and Japan have submitted a list of about 40 North Korean companies to the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee for possible blacklisting due to Pyongyang’s recent rocket launch, envoys said on Tuesday.

The committee, which includes all 15 Security Council members, received an initial response from China that it would only consent to adding two entities to the U.N. list of banned North Korean firms, which the United States and its allies see as too few, envoys told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

“The U.S., Europeans, Japan and ROK (South Korea) have together produced a list of around 40 entities to be designated by the 1718 Committee,” a senior diplomat told Reuters. “The challenge remains as usual squarely on PRC (China).”

The United States was continuing to press China to allow more North Korean firms to be sanctioned, envoys said. Continue reading

In the News – Satellite photos show intense activity at N. Korea nuclear site

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In the News – Satellite photos show intense activity at N. Korea nuclear site

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Satellite images of North Korea’s nuclear test site shows “lots of activity” in preparation for another underground bomb test, analysts who have studied the aerial surveillance of the prohibited weapons site said Friday.

The 38 North website of the U.S.-Korea Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies posted three satellite photos showing the progression of work at the blast site over the last seven weeks.

“We can tell there has been a lot of activity at the site. You can see vehicles moving around, objects being moved around. They’ve been digging a lot of dirt out of the tunnel,” said Joel Wit, a visiting scholar at the institute and editor of the website on North Korea. “But, at end of day, you can’t really tell whether it’s ready or not.”

Diplomatic and intelligence sources have been warning for weeks that a nuclear test — in defiance of international warnings to Pyongyang — appeared to be imminent. Continue reading

In the News – Analysts Say North Korea Faked New Missiles

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In the News – Analysts Say North Korea Faked New Missiles
Rockets are carried by military vehicles during a military parade to celebrate the centenary of the birth of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012.

Two German analysts say ballistic missiles unveiled in a North Korean military parade earlier this month were clumsy fakes.

In a paper titled, “A Dog And Pony Show,” Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker of Germany’s Schmucker Technologie wrote that the six intercontinental ballistic missiles carried on mobile launchers in the April 15 parade were all bad mock-ups.

The paper said the missiles appeared to be a mishmash of liquid-fuel and solid-fuel components that could never fly together.  In addition, undulating casings on the missiles suggested the metal is too thin to withstand flight.  The two analysts said each missile was slightly different from the others, even though all were supposedly the same make, and they did not even fit the launchers that carried them.

Schiller and Schmucker said there is still no evidence that North Korea actually has a functional ICBM.

The large military parade, including nearly 900 pieces of military equipment, took place on April 15 to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of North Korea’s first leader, Kim Il Sung.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N.Korea Reiterates Threats of ‘Special Action’

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In the News – N.Korea Reiterates Threats of ‘Special Action’

North Korea on Thursday denied that dire threats of “special action” issued Monday would mean merely a repeat of the deadly shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010.

The official propaganda website Uriminzokkiri said if South Korea dismisses the warning as something similar to the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, “it is a big mistake.” In an editorial headed, “Do They Still Not Understand Our Determination to Retaliate?” the website said the North’s “revolutionary forces never utter empty words.”

“Our revolutionary forces decided to take special action in order to obliterate the group of traitors led by Lee Myung-bak and defend our supreme dignity,” it thundered. “We will lay Lee Myung-bak’s group to ashes with unprecedented means and our own ways.”

 

Original article can be found here.

After Kim Jong-Il: America and the Two Koreas

Recently while listening to the National Public Radio (NPR) in the car I came across this program, made by “America Abroad,” about predictions on the future of North Korea and its relations with America. I found the nearly hour-long program at the “America Abroad” website and thought it would be helpful to show others this fairly comprehensive study of the past of Korean relations and to highlight its main points for those who don’t have a free hour to listen to the entire program. The program ended with a quote on the current state of relations; “The 65 million dollar question is… are we going to be ready if this succession doesn’t work.” This question colored the discussion on predictions for the future and unification through the hour. Continue reading

In the News – China Warns N.Korea Off Nuclear Test

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In the News – China Warns N.Korea Off Nuclear Test

A high-ranking official in China’s Foreign Ministry has issued a rare public warning to North Korea against another nuclear test, saying it would violate China’s national interest. The comments were made by Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai to reporters at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday.

“I am opposed to any act that damages peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, since such acts can damage the national security and interests of not only other countries but China’s as well,” Cui said. “No side should commit acts that raise tensions.”

This is the first time for China to comment publicly on the North’s nuclear development since the possibility of Pyongyang conducting a third nuclear test was raised.

But Cui resisted U.S. demands that China step up pressure on North Korea. “Maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia is the joint responsibility of all of the concerned countries, not just China alone,” he said.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N.Korea Boasts of Ability to Destroy U.S. Military in ‘Single Blow’

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In the News – N.Korea Boasts of Ability to Destroy U.S. Military in ‘Single Blow’

North Korea’s army marked its 80th anniversary Wednesday with a vow to retaliate against what its chief of staff terms the traitors in the South. The remarks are the latest in a series of harsh threats directed at Seoul in recent weeks.

◆ N.Korea’s Provocations

North Korea is boasting of “powerful, modern weapons” that can defeat in a single blow the United States, which it accuses of plotting a war against it.

Chief of general staff, Ri Yong-ho, gave no further details about the weaponry in his speech to mark the North Korean army’s 80th anniversary. His address, from Pyongyang’s House of Culture, was broadcast later in the day on North Korean television.

Vice Marshal Ri says the blood of North Korea’s military and civilians is boiling in anger with a desire for revenge against South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak. He reiterates a threat of “sacred war,” transmitted earlier in the week, to crush the bases of provocation in the South. Continue reading

In the News – North Korea’s Missiles Displayed At Parade Are Fake, Say Analysts

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In the News – North Korea’s Missiles Displayed At Parade Are Fake, Say Analysts

By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press

TOKYO — Analysts who have studied photos of a half-dozen ominous new North Korean missiles showcased recently at a lavish military parade say they were fakes, and not very convincing ones, casting further doubt on the country’s claims of military prowess.

Since its recent rocket launch failure, Pyongyang’s top military leaders have made several boastful statements about its weapons capabilities. On Wednesday, Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho claimed his country is capable of defeating the United States “at a single blow.” And on Monday, North Korea promised “special actions” that would reduce Seoul’s government to ashes within minutes.

But the weapons displayed April 15 appear to be a mishmash of liquid-fuel and solid-fuel components that could never fly together. Undulating casings on the missiles suggest the metal is too thin to withstand flight. Each missile was slightly different from the others, even though all were supposedly the same make. They don’t even fit the launchers they were carried on.

“There is no doubt that these missiles were mock-ups,” Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker, of Germany’s Schmucker Technologie, wrote in a paper posted recently on the website Armscontrolwonk.com that listed those discrepancies. “It remains unknown if they were designed this way to confuse foreign analysts, or if the designers simply did some sloppy work.” Continue reading