Today's D Brief: N. Korean launch triggers alarms; F-35’s rising cost; More NATO troops to Kosovo; 100s of leaders call AI a global threat; And a bit more.
Air raid sirens screeched throughout Seoul while cell phones in South Korea and parts of Japan urged evacuations Wednesday after North Korea tried to send a satellite into orbit via its burgeoning missile program. The warnings and sirens were different from those heard during previous North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile tests, Reuters journalist Josh Smith tweeted. Newsweek has audio and video of the alerts and instructions heard across Seoul, here. A separate alert sent to cell phones in Okinawa, Japan, also warned of a North Korean missile launch and encouraged citizens to hurry inside a nearby building or underground.
What happened: The second-stage engine failed to ignite, according to Pyongyang’s state-run media KCNA in a rare acknowledgement of failure. South Korea’s spy agency says it believes the failure may have resulted from “an excessive change of route toward the east through lateral motion,” which points to yaw maneuver difficulties, Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace suggested on Twitter. (For what it’s worth, Spanish officials canceled their own rocket launch Wednesday morning, citing excessive winds at high altitude.)
Officials in Pyongyang vowed to try again soon to close a satellite-surveillance gap with their southern neighbor. That gap widened last week with South Korea’s second-ever successful launch of a homegrown space rocket on Thursday. Seoul’s military, meanwhile, said it retrieved part of the North Korean launch vehicle that landed in the sea Wednesday—approximate locations here—and plan to learn what they can from it in the coming days, Yonhap news agency reports. View images of that recovered object, here.
Best leave any schadenfreude at the door: That’s because just one month ago, North Korea “successfully tested a road-mobile solid fueled ICBM, making them only the 3rd nation with that capability,” NPR’s science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel pointed out on Twitter.
The U.S. military’s reax to Wednesday’s satellite-launch mishap: “We are aware of the DPRK’s launch using ballistic missile technology, which is a brazen violation of multiple unanimous UN Security Council resolutions, raises tensions, and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region and beyond,” officials at Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement. “We have assessed that this event did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory, or that of our allies, but will continue to monitor the situation,” they added. Tiny bit more to that, here.
- “N.K. leader estimated to weigh about 140 kg [or, 308 pounds] with significant sleep disorders: spy agency,” Yonhap reported Wednesday;
- “South Korea uses AI to measure North Korean leader's weight, lawmaker says,” Reuters reported Wednesday from Seoul;
- “S Korea, Pacific Islands to boost ties after first-ever summit,” al-Jazeera reported Wednesday; Reuters has similar coverage here;
- And “Why North Korea's satellite launch attempt may be 'first of many',” also via Josh Smith and Sakura Murakami of Reuters.
From Defense One
The Army Is Tearing Up Its Playbook for Software Upgrades // Lauren C. Williams: Four programs are trying out a new method based on commercial practices.
Debt Limit Deal Would Save Feds' Paychecks, But Freeze Agency Spending // Eric Katz: The agreement also reduces shutdown threats, plus other takeaways for federal employees.
Estonia Will Ask For a Clearer Path for Ukraine to Join NATO // Patrick Tucker: In Europe, defense ministers and military experts worry that the world is not learning the lessons from Ukraine quickly enough.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: Anduril eyes Japanese defense market; ‘Angry Kitten’ tested during combat exercises; F-14 Tomcat needs a flat fixed; and more.
F-35 Costs Still Climbing, as Pentagon Updates the Fleet // Audrey Decker: New GAO report details another $1.4 billion in upgrade costs, and additional delays.
‘MAGA’ Republicans Are Dismantling Ronald Reagan’s Legacy // James Kitfield: Efforts to draft the U.S. military into culture wars are undoing its Reagan-era rise from post-Vietnam malaise.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson and Jennifer Hlad with Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1921, the two-day Tulsa race massacre began when white supremacists attacked black families and destroyed homes and businesses in Tulsa's Greenwood District.
The U.S. military says China’s air force carried out an “unnecessarily aggressive maneuver” Friday as a U.S. Air Force RC-135 flew over the South China Sea. See video of the Chinese jet pilot’s actions, here. “The [People’s Republic of China J-16] pilot flew directly in front of the nose of the RC-135, forcing the U.S. aircraft to fly through its wake turbulence,” U.S. officials at Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement.
The RC-135 was “conducting safe and routine operations over the South China Sea in international airspace, in accordance with international law,” Indo-PACOM said, “and the U.S. Indo-Pacific Joint Force will continue to fly in international airspace with due regard for the safety of all vessels and aircraft under international law.”
“We expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific region to use international airspace safely and in accordance with international law,” the U.S. officials added.
When it comes to threats facing mankind, artificial intelligence should be put on the same level as nuclear weapons and pandemics, hundreds of leading scientists declared in a joint single-sentence statement Tuesday. Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI, was among those who warned, “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”
The Chinese Communist Party even put out its own warning against the risks of AI, according to the latest meeting of Beijing’s National Security Commission, which is chaired by China’s autocratic leader and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping. Officials at that meeting instructed authorities to “assess the potential risks, take precautions, safeguard the people’s interests and national security, and ensure the safety, reliability and ability to control AI,” state-run newspaper Beijing Youth Daily wrote Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
Xi also instructed Chinese officials to prepare for “worst-case and most extreme scenarios” so the party can weather “high winds and waves and even perilous storms” since the national security environment appears to be growing “considerably more complex and much more difficult.” The South China Morning Post has more from that meeting, here.
NATO is sending 700 more troops to Kosovo, where protests in the Serb-majority north wounded 30 alliance troops, 19 from Hungary and 11 from Italy. More than 50 ethnic Serbian protesters were also hurt in the clashes, which NATO officials described as “unprovoked violence.”
Roots of the violence: “Regional unrest has intensified following April elections that the ethnic Serbs boycotted, narrowing the turnout to 3.5% and leaving victory in four Serb-majority Kosovan mayoralties to ethnic Albanian candidates,” Reuters reported Tuesday from the northern Kosovar city of Leposavić.
Background: “Northern Kosovo's majority Serbs have never accepted Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia, and consider Belgrade their capital more than two decades after the Kosovo Albanian uprising against repressive Serbian rule,” Reuters reminds us. Those clashes in 1998 left about 10,000 people dead.
Kosovo already hosts 3,800 NATO troops as part of an enduring peacekeeping mission that began in 1999 after a NATO bombing campaign pushed the repressive Serbian security forces out of Kosovo’s north. When the Albanian officials tried to take office last week, Serbs protested and blocked them from entering the municipal building in Zvecan. Kosovo troops dispersed the protesters with teargas, but protesters returned Monday to clash with police and NATO troops at Zvecan.
NATO has also put an additional battalion of troops on alert (that’s about a thousand soldiers) should conflict escalate in northern Kosovo, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday.
Some Ukrainian mothers have managed to retrieve their stolen children from Russia, reports the BBC, which recounts several harrowing stories and details several ways the children were seized. Read that, here.
Reminder: Kidnapping of children is among the war crimes that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is accused of by the International Criminal Court. The BBC rounds up the various charges, here.
Meanwhile, Russia is exporting oil through a “dark fleet,” a set of ships that spoof their location beacons to throw sanctions-enforcers off the track. The New York Times has identified several of the ships, and presents the evidence with a fascinating visualization, here.
- “How a High-Value Russian Wanted by the U.S. Escaped From Italy,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Wednesday from Milan.
Lastly, and apropos of nothing: We may have just observed one of the most outrageous beards ever seen on an American diplomat in the modern era. Defense One’s Sam Skove recently eyed the epic, quadruple bandholz or long wave sported by U.S. Embassy Charge d' Affaires James Holtsnider back in late March during a ribbon-cutting event at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. See for yourself in the photos from this Army press release.
Also: We’re not beard pros, so if there is a more appropriate name for such an impressive beard, please let us know!