$1*/ mo hosting! Get going with us!

Category: USA

news from USA

Tornadoes Rake 2 Oklahoma Cities, Killing 2 and Injuring 29

A tornado leveled a motel and tore through a mobile home park near Oklahoma City overnight, killing two people and injuring at least 29 others before a second twister raked a suburb of Tulsa more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away, authorities said Sunday.

The first tornado touched down in El Reno, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City, late Saturday night. It crossed an interstate and walloped the American Budget Value Inn before ripping through the Skyview Estates trailer park, flipping and leveling homes, Mayor Matt White said at a news conference.

“It’s a tragic scene out there,” White said, adding later that, “People have absolutely lost everything.” He said the city established a GoFundMe site, the City of El Reno Tornado Relief Fund, for affected families. Several other businesses were also damaged, though not to the same extent as the motel.

​The two people who were killed were in the mobile home park, White said. He did not provide additional details about them. The 29 people who were injured were taken to hospitals, where some were undergoing surgery. Some of the injuries were deemed critical, he said.

The National Weather Service gave the tornado an EF3 rating, meaning it had wind speeds of 136-165 mph (219-266 kph). Personnel who investigated the damage said the tornado began around 10:28 p.m. Saturday and lasted for four minutes. The tornado was about 75 yards wide at its widest point and was on the ground for 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers).

The tornado was spawned by a powerful storm system that rolled through the state — the latest in a week of violent storms to hit the flood-weary Plains and Midwest that have been blamed for at least 11 deaths, including the two killed in El Reno.

Early Sunday, another tornado destroyed several buildings and downed trees and power lines in the Tulsa suburb of Sapulpa, which is 110 miles (177 kilometers) northeast of El Reno. Pete Snyder, a hydrometeorological technician with the weather service in Tulsa, said crews were assessing damage to determine the tornado’s rating. The area also experienced damage from strong straight-line winds, he said.

The Sapulpa Police Department said on its Facebook page that it hadn’t heard of any deaths and that only a few minor injuries had been reported. 

Residents wandered around after sunrise to survey the damage, carefully avoiding fallen utility poles that blocked some streets. Among the buildings that were destroyed was a historic railroad building built in the early 1900s that the Farmers Feed Store had been using for storage. A furniture store’s warehouse was also destroyed.

In El Reno, emergency crews sifted through the rubble at the trailer park and motel, where the second story collapsed into a pile of debris strewn about the first floor and parking lot.

​Tweety Garrison, 63, told The Associated Press that she was in her mobile home with her husband, two young grandchildren and a family friend when she heard the storm coming and immediately hit the ground. Moments later, she heard her neighbor’s mobile home slam into hers before it flipped over and landed on her roof.

Garrison said the incident lasted five to 10 minutes and that she received a tornado warning on her phone but the sirens didn’t go off until after the twister hit.

Her 32-year-old son, Elton Garrison, said he heard the wailing tornado sirens and had just laid down at home about a half-mile (1 kilometer) away when his phone rang. He recognized his mother’s number, but there was no voice on the other end when he answered. “I thought, `That’s weird,”’ he said.

Then his mother called back, and delivered a chilling message: “We’re trapped.”

He said when he arrived at his parent’s home, he found it blocked by debris and sitting with another trailer on top of it. He began clearing a path to the home so that he could eventually lift a portion of an outside wall just enough so that all five occupants could slip beneath it and escape.

“My parents were in there and two of my kids, one 9 and the other 12. … My main emotion was fear,” said Elton Garrison, who has lived in El Reno for about 26 years. “I couldn’t get them out of there quick enough.”

He said he wasn’t alarmed by the warning sirens when he first heard them at home.

​”We hear them all the time here, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. … I heard a lot of rain with the wind. But when it kind of got calm all of a sudden, that’s when it didn’t feel right.”

He said his parents had only recently recovered after losing their previous home to a fire a few years ago.

“Now this,” he said, before expressing gratitude that everyone inside his parents’ home had emerged without serious injury.

In the next breath, he added: “Items can be replaced. Lives can’t.”

The storm is the latest to hit the flood-weary central U.S. and dumped yet more rain in the region’s already bloated waterways. In Tulsa, authorities advised residents of some neighborhoods on Sunday to consider leaving for higher ground because the Arkansas River is stressing the city’s old levee system.

Downriver and about 100 miles (161 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa in Arkansas’ second-largest city, Fort Smith, residents were preparing for what meteorologists are predicting will be the worst flooding in recorded history. 

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Tornadoes Rake 2 Oklahoma Cities, Killing 2 and Injuring 29

A tornado leveled a motel and tore through a mobile home park near Oklahoma City overnight, killing two people and injuring at least 29 others before a second twister raked a suburb of Tulsa more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away, authorities said Sunday.

The first tornado touched down in El Reno, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City, late Saturday night. It crossed an interstate and walloped the American Budget Value Inn before ripping through the Skyview Estates trailer park, flipping and leveling homes, Mayor Matt White said at a news conference.

“It’s a tragic scene out there,” White said, adding later that, “People have absolutely lost everything.” He said the city established a GoFundMe site, the City of El Reno Tornado Relief Fund, for affected families. Several other businesses were also damaged, though not to the same extent as the motel.

​The two people who were killed were in the mobile home park, White said. He did not provide additional details about them. The 29 people who were injured were taken to hospitals, where some were undergoing surgery. Some of the injuries were deemed critical, he said.

The National Weather Service gave the tornado an EF3 rating, meaning it had wind speeds of 136-165 mph (219-266 kph). Personnel who investigated the damage said the tornado began around 10:28 p.m. Saturday and lasted for four minutes. The tornado was about 75 yards wide at its widest point and was on the ground for 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers).

The tornado was spawned by a powerful storm system that rolled through the state — the latest in a week of violent storms to hit the flood-weary Plains and Midwest that have been blamed for at least 11 deaths, including the two killed in El Reno.

Early Sunday, another tornado destroyed several buildings and downed trees and power lines in the Tulsa suburb of Sapulpa, which is 110 miles (177 kilometers) northeast of El Reno. Pete Snyder, a hydrometeorological technician with the weather service in Tulsa, said crews were assessing damage to determine the tornado’s rating. The area also experienced damage from strong straight-line winds, he said.

The Sapulpa Police Department said on its Facebook page that it hadn’t heard of any deaths and that only a few minor injuries had been reported. 

Residents wandered around after sunrise to survey the damage, carefully avoiding fallen utility poles that blocked some streets. Among the buildings that were destroyed was a historic railroad building built in the early 1900s that the Farmers Feed Store had been using for storage. A furniture store’s warehouse was also destroyed.

In El Reno, emergency crews sifted through the rubble at the trailer park and motel, where the second story collapsed into a pile of debris strewn about the first floor and parking lot.

​Tweety Garrison, 63, told The Associated Press that she was in her mobile home with her husband, two young grandchildren and a family friend when she heard the storm coming and immediately hit the ground. Moments later, she heard her neighbor’s mobile home slam into hers before it flipped over and landed on her roof.

Garrison said the incident lasted five to 10 minutes and that she received a tornado warning on her phone but the sirens didn’t go off until after the twister hit.

Her 32-year-old son, Elton Garrison, said he heard the wailing tornado sirens and had just laid down at home about a half-mile (1 kilometer) away when his phone rang. He recognized his mother’s number, but there was no voice on the other end when he answered. “I thought, `That’s weird,”’ he said.

Then his mother called back, and delivered a chilling message: “We’re trapped.”

He said when he arrived at his parent’s home, he found it blocked by debris and sitting with another trailer on top of it. He began clearing a path to the home so that he could eventually lift a portion of an outside wall just enough so that all five occupants could slip beneath it and escape.

“My parents were in there and two of my kids, one 9 and the other 12. … My main emotion was fear,” said Elton Garrison, who has lived in El Reno for about 26 years. “I couldn’t get them out of there quick enough.”

He said he wasn’t alarmed by the warning sirens when he first heard them at home.

​”We hear them all the time here, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. … I heard a lot of rain with the wind. But when it kind of got calm all of a sudden, that’s when it didn’t feel right.”

He said his parents had only recently recovered after losing their previous home to a fire a few years ago.

“Now this,” he said, before expressing gratitude that everyone inside his parents’ home had emerged without serious injury.

In the next breath, he added: “Items can be replaced. Lives can’t.”

The storm is the latest to hit the flood-weary central U.S. and dumped yet more rain in the region’s already bloated waterways. In Tulsa, authorities advised residents of some neighborhoods on Sunday to consider leaving for higher ground because the Arkansas River is stressing the city’s old levee system.

Downriver and about 100 miles (161 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa in Arkansas’ second-largest city, Fort Smith, residents were preparing for what meteorologists are predicting will be the worst flooding in recorded history. 

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Trump: Japan-Mediated Iran Talks ‘Would Be Fine’

U.S. President Donald Trump says he would be fine with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe serving as a mediator between the United States and Iran.

“The prime minister has already spoken to me about that,” Trump said in response to a question from VOA.”And I do believe that Iran would like to talk and if they’d like to talk we’d like to talk also. We’ll see what happens. But I know for a fact that the prime minister is very close with the leadership of Iran.”

Trump spoke as he and Abe opened a meeting Monday at the Japanese state guest house.

U.S. – Iran tensions escalated in recent weeks as Trump ended waivers that had allowed some of Iran’s biggest oil buyers to continue making purchases despite new U.S. sanctions, and as he increased the U.S. military presence in the Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.

Trump and Abe are scheduled to hold a news conference Monday afternoon after their talks that were to include military and trade matters.

 

No quick breakthrough on trade is expected although both leaders have expressed a desire for a bilateral trade pact after Trump pulled the United States out of the comprehensive 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Tokyo had spearheaded with Washington under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump said there would be an announcement on trade coming probably in August “that will be very good for both countries,” and reiterated his desire to see a better trade balance between them.

Earlier Monday, Trump became the first foreign leader to meet with Emperor Naruhito, who ascended to the throne May 1.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump took part in an elaborate welcoming ceremony at the Imperial Palace.

The U.S. delegation was greeted at the palace by several dozen elementary schoolchildren waving Japanese and American flags. A military band played the U.S. “Star Spangled Banner” and Kimigayo anthems. 

The emperor is hosting an imperial banquet at the palace Monday night.

On Sunday, Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton were publicly at odds about the seriousness of the threat currently posed by North Korea.

 

In a Sunday morning tweet from Tokyo, Trump issued a retort to Bolton who the previous day here had told reporters that there was “no doubt” North Korea’s recent test firing of short-range ballistic missiles violated a United Nations resolution.

 

Bolton’s remark was the first by a U.S. official describing the North Korean launches as a violation of U.N. resolutions.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons which disturbed some of my people and others, but not me,” said Trump in his tweet.

Trump’s tweet on North Korea caused confusion and consternation, not only within the administration but also among America’s allies in the region, acknowledged senior White House officials traveling with the president

Some analysts say the missile launches are indeed a concern.  

“It’s pretty clear the missile launch was a violation of U.N. sanctions, whatever the range. The reality is that U.S. forces and civilians in South Korea and Japan are already in range of North Koreans missiles, so accepting shorter or mid-range missiles puts the United States at risk, not to mention our allies Japan and the Republic of Korea,” Kevin Maher, a Washington security consultant and a former head of the State Department’s Office of Japan Affairs, tells VOA. “These realities are inconvenient if the objective is to show a personal relationship with the dictator Kim Jung UN will stop North Korea’s continuing nuclear and missile programs.”

 

The U.S. president also expressed confidence the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, “will keep his promise to me” in moving towards denuclearization.

Trump said Monday there is “good respect” between the United States and North Korea, and he thinks “lots of good things will come.”

Trump and Kim have held two summits – in Singapore and Hanoi. Neither has led to any significant breakthroughs although the meetings were seen as reducing tensions between the two countries which have no diplomatic relations and their leaders had never met before.

The United States and North Korea were belligerents in a three-year war in the early 1950’s which devastated the Korean peninsula. It ended with an armistice, but no peace treaty has ever been signed. 

 

Bolton, who 13 months ago replaced retired Army General H.R. McMaster as the president’s national security adviser, is known as a hardliner who distrusts Pyongyang’s intentions.

 

North Korea has a long track record of violating international agreements and has repeatedly defied U.N. sanctions against its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Before Trump departs Japan on Tuesday, he is to visit the naval base at Yokosuka to tour a Japanese helicopter carrier and address American service personnel in conjunction with the U.S. Memorial Day holiday (observed on Monday).

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Trump: Japan-Mediated Iran Talks ‘Would Be Fine’

U.S. President Donald Trump says he would be fine with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe serving as a mediator between the United States and Iran.

“The prime minister has already spoken to me about that,” Trump said in response to a question from VOA.”And I do believe that Iran would like to talk and if they’d like to talk we’d like to talk also. We’ll see what happens. But I know for a fact that the prime minister is very close with the leadership of Iran.”

Trump spoke as he and Abe opened a meeting Monday at the Japanese state guest house.

U.S. – Iran tensions escalated in recent weeks as Trump ended waivers that had allowed some of Iran’s biggest oil buyers to continue making purchases despite new U.S. sanctions, and as he increased the U.S. military presence in the Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.

Trump and Abe are scheduled to hold a news conference Monday afternoon after their talks that were to include military and trade matters.

 

No quick breakthrough on trade is expected although both leaders have expressed a desire for a bilateral trade pact after Trump pulled the United States out of the comprehensive 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Tokyo had spearheaded with Washington under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump said there would be an announcement on trade coming probably in August “that will be very good for both countries,” and reiterated his desire to see a better trade balance between them.

Earlier Monday, Trump became the first foreign leader to meet with Emperor Naruhito, who ascended to the throne May 1.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump took part in an elaborate welcoming ceremony at the Imperial Palace.

The U.S. delegation was greeted at the palace by several dozen elementary schoolchildren waving Japanese and American flags. A military band played the U.S. “Star Spangled Banner” and Kimigayo anthems. 

The emperor is hosting an imperial banquet at the palace Monday night.

On Sunday, Trump and National Security Advisor John Bolton were publicly at odds about the seriousness of the threat currently posed by North Korea.

 

In a Sunday morning tweet from Tokyo, Trump issued a retort to Bolton who the previous day here had told reporters that there was “no doubt” North Korea’s recent test firing of short-range ballistic missiles violated a United Nations resolution.

 

Bolton’s remark was the first by a U.S. official describing the North Korean launches as a violation of U.N. resolutions.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons which disturbed some of my people and others, but not me,” said Trump in his tweet.

Trump’s tweet on North Korea caused confusion and consternation, not only within the administration but also among America’s allies in the region, acknowledged senior White House officials traveling with the president

Some analysts say the missile launches are indeed a concern.  

“It’s pretty clear the missile launch was a violation of U.N. sanctions, whatever the range. The reality is that U.S. forces and civilians in South Korea and Japan are already in range of North Koreans missiles, so accepting shorter or mid-range missiles puts the United States at risk, not to mention our allies Japan and the Republic of Korea,” Kevin Maher, a Washington security consultant and a former head of the State Department’s Office of Japan Affairs, tells VOA. “These realities are inconvenient if the objective is to show a personal relationship with the dictator Kim Jung UN will stop North Korea’s continuing nuclear and missile programs.”

 

The U.S. president also expressed confidence the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, “will keep his promise to me” in moving towards denuclearization.

Trump said Monday there is “good respect” between the United States and North Korea, and he thinks “lots of good things will come.”

Trump and Kim have held two summits – in Singapore and Hanoi. Neither has led to any significant breakthroughs although the meetings were seen as reducing tensions between the two countries which have no diplomatic relations and their leaders had never met before.

The United States and North Korea were belligerents in a three-year war in the early 1950’s which devastated the Korean peninsula. It ended with an armistice, but no peace treaty has ever been signed. 

 

Bolton, who 13 months ago replaced retired Army General H.R. McMaster as the president’s national security adviser, is known as a hardliner who distrusts Pyongyang’s intentions.

 

North Korea has a long track record of violating international agreements and has repeatedly defied U.N. sanctions against its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Before Trump departs Japan on Tuesday, he is to visit the naval base at Yokosuka to tour a Japanese helicopter carrier and address American service personnel in conjunction with the U.S. Memorial Day holiday (observed on Monday).

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

American Football Legend Bart Starr Dies at 85

Former U.S. football superstar Bart Starr, who led his Green Bay Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls, has died at 85.

The Packers gave no cause of death, but Starr had not fully recovered from two strokes and a heart attack five years ago.

Starr arrived in Green Bay in 1956 after playing college football for the University of Alabama.

He was a solid but unremarkable player until legendary coach Vince Lombardi took over the Packers in 1959.

Starr’s name became synonymous with football greatness in the 1960s.

Starr and Lombardi led Green Bay to five NFL championships, including wins in Super Bowls I and II.

The 1967 Super Bowl will be forever known as the Ice Bowl, with wind chills as low as minus 56 degrees Celsius at one point.

Despite the miserable conditions and with just minutes to go, Starr completed five consecutive passes and ran the ball into the end zone himself, to come from behind and beat the Dallas Cowboys, 21-17.

Starr retired from playing in 1971 and later coached the Packers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Starr co-founded a ranch for troubled boys and the NFL’s annual Bart Starr Award goes to the player who shows outstanding charitable traits.

 

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

American Football Legend Bart Starr Dies at 85

Former U.S. football superstar Bart Starr, who led his Green Bay Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls, has died at 85.

The Packers gave no cause of death, but Starr had not fully recovered from two strokes and a heart attack five years ago.

Starr arrived in Green Bay in 1956 after playing college football for the University of Alabama.

He was a solid but unremarkable player until legendary coach Vince Lombardi took over the Packers in 1959.

Starr’s name became synonymous with football greatness in the 1960s.

Starr and Lombardi led Green Bay to five NFL championships, including wins in Super Bowls I and II.

The 1967 Super Bowl will be forever known as the Ice Bowl, with wind chills as low as minus 56 degrees Celsius at one point.

Despite the miserable conditions and with just minutes to go, Starr completed five consecutive passes and ran the ball into the end zone himself, to come from behind and beat the Dallas Cowboys, 21-17.

Starr retired from playing in 1971 and later coached the Packers. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

Starr co-founded a ranch for troubled boys and the NFL’s annual Bart Starr Award goes to the player who shows outstanding charitable traits.

 

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Experts: Combine US, S. Korean Missile Systems to Boost Defense vs. North

Kim Dong-hyun of the VOA Korean Service contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — South Korea should integrate its missile defense system with that of the U.S. to maximize the combined capabilities to counter a potential incoming flight of North Korea’s missiles across the border, experts said in the wake of Pyongyang’s two missile launches in early May.

South Korea’s missile defense system and the U.S. antimissile defense system deployed in South Korea are coordinated but operate independently.

“The whole system would work better if it was fully integrated, if it was a completely combined operation,” said Bruce Bechtol, a former intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now a professor at Angelo State University in Texas.

​Why not integrate systems?

The lack of integration is rooted in regional history. The South Korean government, whether it was conservative or liberal, never merged its system with the U.S. system for political reasons, in part, because integrating it would mean joining the U.S. missile defense alliance in the region that includes Japan, South Korea’s colonial adversary toward which South Korea’s public sentiment has been historically antagonistic, according to Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp. research center.

Streamlining the command and control of the two missile defense systems with autonomous command and control would cut the time needed to analyze data, share information, and cue the proper system for targeting and intercepting an incoming missile, according to David Maxwell, a former U.S. Special Forces colonel and current fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

On May 17, the Pentagon announced the U.S. had approved a $314 million sale of air defense missiles to South Korea.

South Korea’s missile defense system, termed the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), includes Aegis and Patriot systems, and is designed to protect South Korea from missiles that fly at different altitudes and distance by detecting, tracking and intercepting incoming missiles in the air. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which currently falls under the U.S. missile defense system, is also deployed in South Korea.

Aegis, a sea-based missile defense system, and THAAD are area defense weapons that have the capabilities to defend wide areas against missiles that fly high altitudes. And, the Patriot system, known as pointed defense weapons, can intercept missiles directed against smaller areas such as air base, according to Maxwell.

​No perfect defense

But they don’t provide a perfect defense that prevents missiles from getting through, he added.

“There’s no impenetrable shield,” Maxwell said. “There [is] always going to be a gap, a seam, a weakness, that the enemy is always trying to exploit and defenders are always trying to fix and find a better way. This is constantly a game of where capabilities continue to evolve.”

This was part of what was happening when North Korea tested a new missile on May 4 that is considered to be similar to the Russian Iskander, a nuclear-capable missile that flies lower than the short-range ballistic missiles North Korea tested before.

“A ballistic missile leaves the earth’s atmosphere and glides back down,” Bechtol said. “This [test] missile does not, as far as I can tell, leave the Earth’s atmosphere. It operates more like a cruise missile than a ballistic missile.”

A cruise missile flies on a relatively straight line and at a lower altitude than a ballistic missile, which arcs up before curving down toward a target.

​Russian-like missile poses challenges

Experts said if the new missile is modeled after the Iskander, it could pose multiple challenges and could exploit gaps in the existing missile-defense coverage in South Korea. 

The new missile’s “flattened flight path” toward a target “makes it difficult to intercept” with current defense systems, said Michael Elleman, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The North Korean version of the Iskander does not fly higher than 50 kilometers and can travel a ground distance as far as 280 kilometers, according to Elleman.

But THAAD and the Aegis SM-3 interceptor operate at an altitude above 50 kilometers, and the Patriot system’s effective intercepting range is at an altitude of about 25 to 30 kilometers with the Patriot variant PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor extending its flight to an altitude of about 40 kilometers.

That leaves “a gap in interceptor coverage” of at least 10 kilometers between the missile defense systems that operate at roughly 40 to 50 kilometers, said Ellemen. “The Iskander spends most of its flight path in this gap, making it difficult to intercept.”

The Iskander can fly at a high speed, presenting another challenge for the current missile defense system.

Bennett said, “The Iskander flies perhaps 20-25 percent faster than the Scud,” a series of tactical ballistic missiles that could travel five times the speed of sound, potentially capable of reaching South Korea in about five minutes, Bennett said.

“THAAD and the SM-3 on the Aegis [equipped] ships should be able to handle this speed. [But] the Iskander flies low, [a] potential challenge for THAAD and the SM-3,” he added.

Most accurate North Korean missile

The Iskander can be mounted on mobile launch platforms, meaning it can be moved and fired quickly.

“It’s a solid fuel missile,” Bechtol said, explaining that the fuel can be loaded ahead of launch “and moved much more quickly than liquid-fuel missiles.” The latter need fueling just before launch.

The Iskander’s maneuverability also makes it difficult for THAAD, Aegis SM-3, and the Patriot system to intercept.

“The Iskander has fins mounted at the back of the missile, which allow it to maneuver during the entire flight,” Ellemen explained. “This makes it much more difficult to predict an intercept location and launches the interceptor on the optimal path for an engagement resulting in destruction of the threat.”

Bechtol said, “It would be the most accurate missile the North Koreans have ever had, so accurate that they could actually fire out … [and] target barracks, flight lines for aircraft, headquarter buildings.”

With the missile test, “the North Koreans are showing us that they have a missile [with which] they can accurately target Osan Air Base or Camp Humphreys in a very real, in a very dangerous way,” Bechtol said, citing American installations in South Korea.

“They were able to keep in accordance with the agreement they made with [President Donald] Trump, and at the same time, threaten the United States and South Korea in a very compelling way,” he added.

When the Pyongyang government began talks with Washington last year, it pledged to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests.

​Complicated political situation

Merging South Korean and U.S. missile defense systems could be hampered by the political situation in South Korea, according to Maxwell. Public attitudes have changed little since 2017, when hundreds of South Korean citizens protested the installation of THAAD at a U.S. military south of Seoul.

“I just don’t see the political will for that in South Korea among majority of the people or the current rule and government,” Maxwell said.

Bennett said a North Korean missile that slipped under defense systems could devastate the peninsula, depending on the type of warhead it carried, “… which in theory could be conventional, nuclear or chemical,” he said. “So the defense would turn to passive defense: protecting people in shelters with masks and protective clothing.”

According to Maxwell, a variant of the Patriot interceptor, the PACT 3 Guidance Enhanced Missile (GEM-T) under the U.S. missile defense system in South Korea is better able “to defeat tactical ballistic missiles and aircraft and cruise missiles” and could potentially intercept the new kind of missile North Korea tested.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Experts: Combine US, S. Korean Missile Systems to Boost Defense vs. North

Kim Dong-hyun of the VOA Korean Service contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — South Korea should integrate its missile defense system with that of the U.S. to maximize the combined capabilities to counter a potential incoming flight of North Korea’s missiles across the border, experts said in the wake of Pyongyang’s two missile launches in early May.

South Korea’s missile defense system and the U.S. antimissile defense system deployed in South Korea are coordinated but operate independently.

“The whole system would work better if it was fully integrated, if it was a completely combined operation,” said Bruce Bechtol, a former intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now a professor at Angelo State University in Texas.

​Why not integrate systems?

The lack of integration is rooted in regional history. The South Korean government, whether it was conservative or liberal, never merged its system with the U.S. system for political reasons, in part, because integrating it would mean joining the U.S. missile defense alliance in the region that includes Japan, South Korea’s colonial adversary toward which South Korea’s public sentiment has been historically antagonistic, according to Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp. research center.

Streamlining the command and control of the two missile defense systems with autonomous command and control would cut the time needed to analyze data, share information, and cue the proper system for targeting and intercepting an incoming missile, according to David Maxwell, a former U.S. Special Forces colonel and current fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

On May 17, the Pentagon announced the U.S. had approved a $314 million sale of air defense missiles to South Korea.

South Korea’s missile defense system, termed the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), includes Aegis and Patriot systems, and is designed to protect South Korea from missiles that fly at different altitudes and distance by detecting, tracking and intercepting incoming missiles in the air. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which currently falls under the U.S. missile defense system, is also deployed in South Korea.

Aegis, a sea-based missile defense system, and THAAD are area defense weapons that have the capabilities to defend wide areas against missiles that fly high altitudes. And, the Patriot system, known as pointed defense weapons, can intercept missiles directed against smaller areas such as air base, according to Maxwell.

​No perfect defense

But they don’t provide a perfect defense that prevents missiles from getting through, he added.

“There’s no impenetrable shield,” Maxwell said. “There [is] always going to be a gap, a seam, a weakness, that the enemy is always trying to exploit and defenders are always trying to fix and find a better way. This is constantly a game of where capabilities continue to evolve.”

This was part of what was happening when North Korea tested a new missile on May 4 that is considered to be similar to the Russian Iskander, a nuclear-capable missile that flies lower than the short-range ballistic missiles North Korea tested before.

“A ballistic missile leaves the earth’s atmosphere and glides back down,” Bechtol said. “This [test] missile does not, as far as I can tell, leave the Earth’s atmosphere. It operates more like a cruise missile than a ballistic missile.”

A cruise missile flies on a relatively straight line and at a lower altitude than a ballistic missile, which arcs up before curving down toward a target.

​Russian-like missile poses challenges

Experts said if the new missile is modeled after the Iskander, it could pose multiple challenges and could exploit gaps in the existing missile-defense coverage in South Korea. 

The new missile’s “flattened flight path” toward a target “makes it difficult to intercept” with current defense systems, said Michael Elleman, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The North Korean version of the Iskander does not fly higher than 50 kilometers and can travel a ground distance as far as 280 kilometers, according to Elleman.

But THAAD and the Aegis SM-3 interceptor operate at an altitude above 50 kilometers, and the Patriot system’s effective intercepting range is at an altitude of about 25 to 30 kilometers with the Patriot variant PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor extending its flight to an altitude of about 40 kilometers.

That leaves “a gap in interceptor coverage” of at least 10 kilometers between the missile defense systems that operate at roughly 40 to 50 kilometers, said Ellemen. “The Iskander spends most of its flight path in this gap, making it difficult to intercept.”

The Iskander can fly at a high speed, presenting another challenge for the current missile defense system.

Bennett said, “The Iskander flies perhaps 20-25 percent faster than the Scud,” a series of tactical ballistic missiles that could travel five times the speed of sound, potentially capable of reaching South Korea in about five minutes, Bennett said.

“THAAD and the SM-3 on the Aegis [equipped] ships should be able to handle this speed. [But] the Iskander flies low, [a] potential challenge for THAAD and the SM-3,” he added.

Most accurate North Korean missile

The Iskander can be mounted on mobile launch platforms, meaning it can be moved and fired quickly.

“It’s a solid fuel missile,” Bechtol said, explaining that the fuel can be loaded ahead of launch “and moved much more quickly than liquid-fuel missiles.” The latter need fueling just before launch.

The Iskander’s maneuverability also makes it difficult for THAAD, Aegis SM-3, and the Patriot system to intercept.

“The Iskander has fins mounted at the back of the missile, which allow it to maneuver during the entire flight,” Ellemen explained. “This makes it much more difficult to predict an intercept location and launches the interceptor on the optimal path for an engagement resulting in destruction of the threat.”

Bechtol said, “It would be the most accurate missile the North Koreans have ever had, so accurate that they could actually fire out … [and] target barracks, flight lines for aircraft, headquarter buildings.”

With the missile test, “the North Koreans are showing us that they have a missile [with which] they can accurately target Osan Air Base or Camp Humphreys in a very real, in a very dangerous way,” Bechtol said, citing American installations in South Korea.

“They were able to keep in accordance with the agreement they made with [President Donald] Trump, and at the same time, threaten the United States and South Korea in a very compelling way,” he added.

When the Pyongyang government began talks with Washington last year, it pledged to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests.

​Complicated political situation

Merging South Korean and U.S. missile defense systems could be hampered by the political situation in South Korea, according to Maxwell. Public attitudes have changed little since 2017, when hundreds of South Korean citizens protested the installation of THAAD at a U.S. military south of Seoul.

“I just don’t see the political will for that in South Korea among majority of the people or the current rule and government,” Maxwell said.

Bennett said a North Korean missile that slipped under defense systems could devastate the peninsula, depending on the type of warhead it carried, “… which in theory could be conventional, nuclear or chemical,” he said. “So the defense would turn to passive defense: protecting people in shelters with masks and protective clothing.”

According to Maxwell, a variant of the Patriot interceptor, the PACT 3 Guidance Enhanced Missile (GEM-T) under the U.S. missile defense system in South Korea is better able “to defeat tactical ballistic missiles and aircraft and cruise missiles” and could potentially intercept the new kind of missile North Korea tested.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Big Toys and a Sandbox for Grown-Ups at Las Vegas Attraction

Most kids love digging in the sand … and many never outgrow that. A new and unusual attraction nicknamed “sand box for grown-ups” is a big hit among teenagers and adults in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a heavy equipment playground that gives customers a change to operate gigantic, earth-moving bulldozers and hydraulic excavators, get tested on their skills and just have fun. Roman Mamonov tried his hand at operating some of the biggest construction vehicles there. Anna Rice narrates his story.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.

Big Toys and a Sandbox for Grown-Ups at Las Vegas Attraction

Most kids love digging in the sand … and many never outgrow that. A new and unusual attraction nicknamed “sand box for grown-ups” is a big hit among teenagers and adults in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a heavy equipment playground that gives customers a change to operate gigantic, earth-moving bulldozers and hydraulic excavators, get tested on their skills and just have fun. Roman Mamonov tried his hand at operating some of the biggest construction vehicles there. Anna Rice narrates his story.

Build a better website in less than an hour. Start for free at us.