Inside the Ring: Russia builds up, U.S. down

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Among nuclear programs in trouble are a new strategic submarine, life extension programs for B-61, W-76 and W-88 nuclear warheads and a long-range standoff nuclear cruise missile. A needed plutonium facility in New Mexico was also canceled, Mr. Rogers said.

The Pentagon also postponed a test launch of a Minuteman III ICBM last month over concerns that it might be misconstrued as an attack on North Korea, which threatened nuclear missile attacks on the United States.

“I find this deeply concerning, given the sorry state of the nuclear modernization commitments made during the last round,” Mr. Rogers said of plans for additional nuclear cuts.

The Pentagon also has signaled a further lack of resolve toward its nuclear modernization program by ordering an environmental impact study of shutting down an entire land-based nuclear-missile wing.

“New START doesn’t require shutting down a missile wing, and I have heard no explanation for this requested study,” Mr. Rogers said.

N. Korea provocation alert

U.S. intelligence agencies are stepping up monitoring North Korean’s military and missile activities now that the annual U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises have ended.

The increased surveillance comes amid new worries that North Korea will conduct some type of military provocation during the visit to the United States next week by South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Mrs. Park arrives Monday on her first visit as president.

Officials tell Inside the Ring there are continuing signs that North Korea is moving some of its mobile missiles and could possibly conduct a test launch of the new intermediate-range Musudan missile, with an expected range of about 2,500 miles — enough to hit targets at the U.S. island of Guam.

Also, intelligence imagery revealed some type of activity at North Korea’s nuclear testing facility that could be an indication of a fourth underground nuclear blast. “It could just be maintenance” on the site in the northeastern part of the country, one official said.

A key worry is that the North Koreans, who engaged in a new round of saber-rattling last month and then appeared to calm down, are now ready to take some type of action that would upset the Park visit.

The new South Korea president is said to be ready to engage North Korea in talks, if Pyongyang dials back its hostile rhetoric and threats.

U.S. officials said there are subtle signs that China recently pressed North Korea’s government not to conduct a military provocation, like the Musudan test.

Chinese envoy Wu Dawei, considered a hard-line, pro-North Korea official, recently met State Department officials. Sources familiar with the talks said Mr. Wu did not present the same Chinese policy line toward North Korea as he has in the past.

China deploys DF-21D

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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