In the News – 30 North Korean officials involved in South talks die ‘in traffic accidents’

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In the News – 30 North Korean officials involved in South talks die ‘in traffic accidents’

In its annual study, Amnesty International claimed that in addition to the 30 who died in purges last year, a further 200 were rounded up in January this year by the State Security Agency as Pyongyang carried out the transfer of power from Kim Jong-il, who died of an apparent heart attack in December, and his 29-year-old son, Kim Jong-un.

Of those 200, Amnesty said, some were apparently executed and the remainder were sent to political prison camps. The gulag system presently contains an estimated 200,000 people in “horrific conditions,” the group said.

North Korea has a habit of executing bureaucrats who are perceived to have failed the regime, even though they are often merely carrying out the orders of higher-ranking officials or members of the ruling family.

In 2010, Pak Nam-gi, the former head of the finance department of the Workers’ Party, was reportedly executed by firing squad for the catastrophic attempt to reform the impoverished nation’s currency. The result was rampant inflation and food shortages became even more acute.

The 30 men executed for failing to improve Pyongyang’s ties with Seoul are considered scapegoats for the new low point in inter-Korean ties.

Their task would have been made immeasurably more difficult given North Korea’s insistence with pushing ahead with its development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In spite of universal condemnation of its failed attempt to launch what Pyongyang claimed was a rocket to put a satellite into orbit in April, North Korea appears to be putting the finishing touches to a test detonation of a nuclear device.

Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Defence, said on Thursday that intelligence reports indicate the North has completed its technical preparations to carry out the long-awaited test and that it could go ahead at any time.

Satellite images of the Punggye-ri site and other data show that the tunnel that had been excavated for the test has been refilled, indicating that the nuclear device has been put in place.

There is speculation that the test may be timed to coincide with the Memorial Day national holiday in the United States, which falls in Monday.

“The North Korean regime is hell-bent on being a belligerent actor,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, during a visit to Seoul with a congressional delegation. “And I think that on holidays or sad commemorations like Memorial Day weekend is when the leadership tries to provoke the democratic allies into action.”

 

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 – N.Korea Denies Imminent Nuclear Test

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In the News – N.Korea Denies Imminent Nuclear Test

North Korea on Tuesday claimed it never planned to conduct a nuclear test and its missile tests were purely for scientific research. A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the regime “from the beginning” never envisaged “such a military measure as a nuclear test,” and the aim of a failed rocket launch last month was to put a satellite into orbit for peaceful purposes.

The North was responding to a statement on Saturday from the G8 nations condemning the April 13 rocket launch and pledging tougher UN sanctions against the Stalinist country in response to any further provocations or a nuclear test.

North Korea then accused the U.S. of condemning it without good reason by taking issue with the peaceful satellite launch and of ratcheting up tensions by spreading what it called “rumors” of an impending nuclear test.

But an intelligence official here insisted the North has nearly finished preparations for a third nuclear test at a facility in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province and that the only thing left is for Pyongyang to officially announce the move. “We have learned from U.S. and South Korean intelligence data that a few more specialized vehicles entered the shaft at the Punggye-ri site, proving that the North is preparing for a nuclear test as we speak,” a South Korean military source said.

Citing military think tank IHS Jane’s Defense and Security Intelligence and Analysis, CNN reported Tuesday that afresh activity has been detected at Punggye-ri related to an impending nuclear test. IHS Jane’s analyzed recent photos taken by private satellite operators Digital Globe and GeoEye showing mining cars and other digging equipment near the shaft, and soil and rocks being moved out.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that the regime has no choice but to bolster its nuclear arsenal while the U.S. keeps up “hostile” acts. “If the US persists in its moves to ratchet up sanctions and pressure on us despite our peace-loving efforts, we will be left with no option but to take counter-measures for self-defense,” the spokesman said.

But the denial itself was unusual. Experts speculate the statement was an excuse for the delay of the nuclear test, which was believed to be imminent. “This is related to speculation that North Korea postponed the nuclear test due to pressure from China,” said Yoo Ho-yeol at Korea University. “North Korea is trying to save face by pretending it has not caved into pressure from China but never planned a nuclear test in the first place.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – N. Korea stops sending out GPS jamming signals against S. Korea: source

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In the News – N. Korea stops sending out GPS jamming signals against S. Korea: source

SEOUL, May 15 (Yonhap) — North Korea appears to have stopped jamming satellite signals in an apparent attempt to disrupt air and maritime traffic navigation systems in parts of South Korea, a high-ranking government source in Seoul said Tuesday.

The North has been blamed for global positioning system (GPS) disruptions that affected hundreds of commercial flights and ships in and out of South Korea since April 28, although no damage was caused as all had backup navigational systems.

“GPS jamming signals from North Korea have not been detected since May 14,” the source said on condition of anonymity, adding the South’s military is keeping “close watch” on the North’s activities.

The source did not rule out the possibility North Korea could send such signals again.

The South’s military is analyzing why North Korea sent the GPS jamming signals from its western border city of Kaesong, officials said.

The signal-scrambling may have been intended to “test electronic warfare devices by the North Korean military or block mobile phone signals inside the North,” said an official at the South’s military, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“We are closely watching activities in military units in Kaesong where the signals were detected as originating,” the military official said.

On Monday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Chinese President Hu Jintao held talks in Beijing and pledged to cooperate closely to deal “more effectively” with North Korea, Lee’s office said, as concern grows Pyongyang could stage additional provocations after last month’s rocket launch.

The North’s GPS attacks began after Pyongyang voiced anger at what it called insulting remarks made by South Korean leaders in connection with its failed rocket launch and costly birthday anniversary celebrations for late founding leader Kim Il-sung.

Lee estimated the costs of the rocket launch at US$850 million and said the North could have been better spent the money to feed its hungry people.

North Korea vowed retaliations, threatening last month to launch “special military actions” to reduce the Lee government to ashes in minutes. Seoul officials said the GPS attacks appear to be part of the North’s latest threats.

Pyongyang has been blamed for jamming GPS signals in South Korea since 2010.

GPS is a satellite-based navigation system widely used by aircraft, ships and the military as well as private vehicle owners.

South Korean military fighters, cargo planes and precise guided bombs are not affected by the disruption of GPS signals as they are equipped with military-only satellite navigation systems, officials said.

 

Original article can be found here.

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.

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 – 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 – 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 Parade From Space

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In the News – North Korea Parade From Space 

In North Korea, the choreography can be part of the geography.

The country is famous for organizing crowds of thousands of people using colored cards to spell out political slogans and images in stadiums or large squares, and the gathering last week to celebrate the 100th birthday of national founder Kim Il Sung was no different.

This time, however, the spelled out message in a central square in the capital of Pyongyang was big enough to be visible from space.

An April 15 image of a celebration taken by a satellite and distributed by DigitalGlobe shows people in red and gold clothing gathered in Kim Il Sung Square and spelling out the word “glory” in Korean.

The parade culminated with the unveiling of a new missile, although analysts who have studied photos of a half-dozen ominous new North Korean rockets say they were fakes.

This April 15, 2012, satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows a parade held to mark the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-sung's birthday Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)

 

Original article can be found here.

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

In the News – N. Korea’s Neighbors Oppose New Nuclear Test

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In the News – N. Korea’s Neighbors Oppose New Nuclear Test

South Korea and China are warning North Korea of consequences if it goes ahead with a third nuclear test.

There is increasing speculation North Korea will attempt to conduct another nuclear test, perhaps within the next one or two weeks.

South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-je warns any such action will violate international sanctions and further isolate the impoverished country.

Cho says, as far as the South Korean government knows, there are no signs North Korea is about to conduct such a test. Continue reading

In the News – U.S. warns N. Korea not to conduct hostile acts

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In the News – U.S. warns N. Korea not to conduct hostile acts

By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINGTON, April 24 (Yonhap) — Amid growing worries that North Korea may soon carry out a nuclear test or launch attacks on South Korea, the U.S. urged Pyongyang Tuesday to use its energy and resources instead to improve the livelihood of its people.

“We strongly suggest that the North Koreans refrain from engaging in any other — any more hostile or provocative actions,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

He reiterated Washington’s concern for the North’s people in need.

The North Korean leadership does “nothing to help the North Korean people, many of whom are starving because of the predilection of the North Korean regime to spend the money it has on weapons systems rather than food and economic development,” added Carney.

Media reports based on unidentified intelligence sources suggest that the North may have almost completed preparations for another underground nuclear experiment.

It has also threatened to carry out “special military actions” against the South.

“No launching, no testing, no nothing if you want to have a better relationship with the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing. “All of these are provocations. All of them take the DPRK in the wrong direction.”

The DPRK is the acronym for the communist nation’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

She emphasized that Washington has lost trust in Pyongyang’s commitment to dialogue, especially since its rocket launch in April.

“Unfortunately, now we’re going backwards,” she said. “So it’s really up to the DPRK to demonstrate that it wants a better relationship with all of us and that it wants to put its energy into peace and stability and taking care of its people, rather than expensive weapons.”

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – North Korea Boasts of Ability to Destroy US Military in ‘Single Blow’

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In the News – North Korea Boasts of Ability to Destroy US 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.

North 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.

North Korea’s new, young leader Kim Jong Un was in the audience for Ri’s remarks. But Kim – who holds the rank of a four-star general – did not address the gathering. Continue reading

In the News – German experts dismiss N. Korean missiles at parade as mock-ups

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In the News – German experts dismiss N. Korean missiles at parade as mock-ups

SEOUL, April 24 (Yonhap) — The new intercontinental ballistic missiles displayed in a military parade in North Korea were mock-ups and the presentation was “a nice dog and pony show,” according to two German experts on North Korean missiles.

The North showed off the missiles on transporter-erector-launchers during the parade to mark the centennial of the April 15 birth of the country’s late founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un. The display sparked intense speculation on the North’s ballistic missile capability following its botched rocket launch earlier this month.

“At first glance, the missile seems capable of covering a range of perhaps 10,000 kilometers. However, a closer look reveals that all of the presented missiles are mock-ups,” Markus Schiller and Robert H. Schmucker, analysts with Schmucker Technology in Germany, wrote in an English-language report posted on a nuclear arms control and nonproliferation blog last week.

“There is still no evidence that North Korea actually has a functional ICBM.” Continue reading

In the News – China Reaffirms Ties with N.Korea Despite Rocket Launch

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In the News – China Reaffirms Ties with N.Korea Despite Rocket Launch

Despite joining the international community in condemning North Korea’s recently attempted rocket launch, China has reaffirmed its commitment to expanding amicable ties with its long-time ally.

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Sunday, State Councilor Dai Bingguo met with senior North Korean party official Kim Yong-il in Beijing, where Dai stressed the importance of the two countries’ traditional friendship.

The ministry did not say whether the two officials discussed the failed rocket launch.

 

Original article can be found here.

In the News – South Korea ‘On Alert’ for Possible North Attack

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In the News – South Korea ‘On Alert’ for Possible North Attack

South Korea appears to be taking seriously the latest attack threat from North Korea.

Police say they have increased patrols around headquarters of nine conservative media outlets in Seoul after North Korea vowed to soon carry out a “special military action” on them by “unprecedented means and methods.”

South Korea’s government says it is concerned about Pyongyang’s threat to reduce to ashes, in several minutes, the support base for the country’s president, including several broadcasters and a leading daily newspaper, the Dong-a Ilbo.

Foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-je characterizes the latest threat from Pyongyang as “very dangerous and harsh.” Continue reading

In the News – N. Korea, China hold first high-level talks since failed rocket launch

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In the News – N. Korea, China hold first high-level talks since failed rocket launch

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) — Senior officials from North Korea and China held their talks in Beijing and exchanged views about matters of mutual concern, Pyongyang’s state media reported Sunday, in the first high-level meeting since the North’s botched rocket launch.

The “strategic dialogue” between Kim Yong-il, the secretary for international affairs at the North Korean Workers’ Party, and Wang Jiarui, the head of the Chinese Communist Party’s international department, took place on Saturday, the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

“Both sides exchanged views on further developing the friendly and cooperative relations between the two parties and two countries, and matters of mutual concern,” the KCNA said in the report.

North Korea defied international warnings and launched a long-range rocket on April 13, but the launch flopped as the rocket crashed after flying for a couple of minutes.

Pyongyang claimed the launch was designed to put a satellite into orbit, but Seoul, Washington and others blasted it as a cover for testing improved ballistic missile technology.
Last week, China joined a statement by the United Nations Security Council that “strongly condemned” the North’s launch and warned it will impose new sanctions if Pyongyang carries out another launch of a long-range rocket or a nuclear test.

 

Original article can be found here.