Satellite Images Suggest North Korea Preparing Submarine Ballistic Missile Launch

On Friday afternoon as the market was about to close, we discussed an unconfirmed report that North Korea had issued “emergency standby orders” to its civil defense units, and we said that at the same time, “traders are furiously hitting refresh on the website of for the daily satellite image update of North Korea’s missile launch preparedness, which has yet to hit and which could mean the difference between another sleepy, boring open on Monday and a VIX surging above 20, 30 or more depending on what “path” Kim Jong-Un picks over the next 48 hours.”

Shortly after the note, 38North, best known for its real-time satellite imagery of North Korean military operations and slightly less known for a pro-war spin according to some (hence, take their conclusions with caution), reported that recent satellite photos suggests that North Korea is preparing for fresh submarine-based missile tests even as Trump has repeatedly stated that any new provocation from North Korea could be grounds for a military operation.

Referring to photographs taken on August 7, Joseph Bermudez, a North Korea specialist, claimed that they could indicate preparations for a new test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). “Recent commercial satellite imagery reveals several developments suggesting that North Korea may be accelerating the development of the sea-based leg of its nuclear forces,” he said.

Of particular interest in the imagery is that netting or tarps have been suspended above both the fore and aft decks of the SINPO-class submarine obscuring any activity taking place beneath them. This was last done prior to the July 9, 2016 test of the Pukguksong-1, suggesting that the North may be preparing for a new series of “at sea” test launches, has undertaken modifications or upgrades to the submarine’s launch systems, or is developing a more advanced version of the Pukguksong-1. Recent ejection tests of an SLBM also support the assessment that an at-sea SLBM test may be forthcoming.

Figure 1. Netting or tarps suspended over SINPO-class SSBA in the secure boat basin

Some further details:

As noted in our July report, sometime during the last week in May, the SINPO-class submarine was repositioned forward along its dock and the submersible test stand barge was moved to a position aft of the submarine (both had previously been in their former positions since December 9, 2016). Since the July report, netting or tarps have been suspended above both the fore and aft decks of the submarine obscuring any activity taking place beneath them. The only other time this was seen was during May-July 2016 and prior to the failed July 9, 2016 Pukguksong-1 test. It is unclear if this activity is signaling a forthcoming at sea SLBM test, although the recent ejection tests would support such an assessment. No activity is noted on or near the submersible test stand barge in the latest image.

Figure 2. Netting or tarps suspended over SINPO-class SSBA observed in May 2016.

Separately, Bermudez said that imagery of the Mayang-do Navy Shipyard and Submarine Base shows the same number of ROMEO-class submarines that are usually berthed there, indicating that a recent spike in ROMEO activity in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) was a singular rather than force-wide event.

Imagery of the Mayang-do Navy Shipyard and Submarine Base shows the same number of ROMEO-class submarines that are usually berthed there, indicating that a recent spike in ROMEO activity in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) was a singular rather than force-wide event. The week-long patrol by a ROMEO-class attack submarine in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) was “highly unusual and unprecedented,” as Korea People’s Navy submarines have not been known to venture far from their home ports over the past ten years. The few times they have, it has been only to participate in short annual military exercises. The purpose of this recent activity is unclear, but there are several potential explanations including: Kim Jong Un’s desire to expand his provocative policy of the past two years into the naval arena; a practical exercise demonstrating renewed North Korean offensive naval capabilities (potentially a component of the strategic review of military capabilities ordered by Kim Jong Un when he came to power); a training cruise intended to prepare a submarine and its crew for a longer cruise to monitor future ballistic missile tests or conduct offensive conventional attack missions; validation of upgrades to the ROMEO-class submarine (a number of ROMEO-class submarines have been undergoing extended maintenance and refurbishment during the past five years)—or some combination of the above.


A preliminary comparison of the submarine activity at both the Mayang-do Navy Shipyard and Submarine Base during the past twelve months with the August 7 image shows the number of ROMEO-class submarines has remained relatively constant, averaging 12-15; and the number of SANGO-class coastal submarines averaging 11-15. In the August 7 image, 12 ROMEO- and 15 SANGO-class submarines are berthed. This suggests that the July “unusual activities” were a singular event rather than a force-wide event. Regardless, extended North Korean operations in the East Sea should be viewed with concern.

Figure 3. Multiple SANGO and ROMEO-class submarines berthed in the Mayang-do Navy Shipyard.

Figure 4. One SANGO-class and three ROMEO-class submarines berthed at the south pier of the Mayang-do Submarine Base.

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Global Financial Stress Index Spikes Most Since 2011 US Downgrade

Did central banks just lose control of the world… again?

For the first time in four months, BofAML’s Global Financial Market Stress index has turned positive – signalling more market stress than normal.

As the spat between North Korea and the U.S. worsened, a measure of cross-asset risk, hedging demand and investor flows awakened from its torpor (after spending 78 straight days below zero – with stress below normal).

The problem the world faces is… did the world’s central bank money-printing safety net just lose its plunge protection power?

For context, this is the biggest spike in the Global Financial Stress Index since the US ratings downgrade in August 2011 – and a bigger shock than the August 2015 China devaluation…

Sunday night futures should be fun: potential war with North Korea, potential war with Venezuela, trade war with China, and civil war looming at home.

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Pence to begin Latin America tour as global crises grow

Sun, 2017-08-13 03:00

WASHINGTON: Vice President Mike Pence will visit Colombia amid escalating tensions with neighboring Venezuela and North Korea.
Pence is set to meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Sunday at the start of a weeklong trip to Latin America that is likely to be dominated by conversations about the deepening crisis in Venezuela, where the US accuses President Nicolas Maduro of a power grab that has sparked deadly protests and condemnation across the region.
Trump appeared to complicate the discussions Friday with an unexpected statement that he would not rule out a “military option” in response to the Venezuelan government’s attempt to consolidate power.
The statement drew immediate push-back, including from the Colombian Foreign Ministry, which condemned any “military measures and the use of force,” and said that efforts to resolve Venezuela’s breakdown in democracy should be peaceful and respect its sovereignty.
Pence’s trip will also take him to Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Panama City, Panama, where he is expected to deliver a number of speeches, meet with the country’s leaders and tour the newly expanded Panama Canal.
In Colombia, Pence is also expected to highlight trade, business investment and other ties between the nations, including US support for the country’s efforts to implement its peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The US will also likely be looking for assurances that Colombia is taking seriously the surging coca production in the country, which has been blamed partially on Santos’ decision in 2015 to stop using crop-destroying herbicides.
A July UN report showed that coca production in Colombia had reached levels not seen in two decades, complicating the South American country’s efforts to make its vast, lawless countryside more secure.
The Trump administration has been putting pressure on the country to curb the flow of drugs into the US and Colombia has stepping up its forced eradication program and increased seizures of cocaine.

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Pressure on Kenyan opposition to concede defeat

Sun, 2017-08-13 13:08

NAIROBI: Kenya remained largely quiet on Sunday following violence in the aftermath of elections, as opposition leader Raila Odinga came under growing international pressure to concede defeat.
The election commission on Friday declared incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta winner of the presidential poll by 1.4 million votes. International observers said Tuesday’s election was largely fair but Odinga disputes the results, saying it was rigged. He has not provided documentary evidence.
There have been at least 24 deaths in election-related unrest, a rights group said on Saturday. But by Sunday the violence appeared to have largely abated, to the relief of Kenyans who feared a repeat of the violence that followed 2007’s disputed election.
Around 1,200 people were killed then and 600,000 displaced after Odinga called for political protests that sparked ethnic violence. Regional trade was paralyzed and Kenya’s economy — the region’s biggest — took years to recover.
This time, diplomats and regional leaders are urging Odinga, a former political prisoner, to concede. Their united stance leaves the 72-year-old opposition leader isolated if he chooses to maintain the allegations of election fraud and proclaim himself president.
He has not issued a public statement since Thursday but is due to address supporters in Nairobi’s biggest slum on Sunday afternoon. Party leaders speaking on his behalf continue to accuse the government of vote-rigging and covering up the murder of their supporters. Kenya’s allies say the election was largely fair.
“I want to congratulate Uhuru Kenyatta,” said a Sunday statement by Federica Mogherini, foreign minister for the EU, which did over $3 billion worth of trade with Kenya last year.
“In line with the African Union, the EU expects the opposition to respect the results and to use legal means available for appeals and complaints.”
A Western diplomat said allies were not interested in revisiting the type of power-sharing deals that ended the post-election violence a decade ago. That avenue was “not an option,” he said.
“If you have evidence that the election was rigged, produce it … NASA has been changing its position in quite significant ways in the past week,” he said, referring to Odinga’s opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance.
“Most of the stuff they are alleging is not accurate.”
Initially, the coalition alleged the electoral server had been hacked, and produced 50 pages of computer logs that security experts said were inconclusive at best.
They later said a secret source within the electoral board had passed them the true election results. That two-page document was debunked by the election commission, who pointed out basic mathematical errors.
Later, Odinga said paper forms from each polling station scanned and uploaded to the election commission website to support its electronic tally were fake. He has not produced alternative forms.
Regional leaders have already congratulated Kenyatta, the 55-year-old son of the country’s first president, on winning a second term.
“Congratulations my brother @UKenyatta for a successful election and the trust Kenyans have placed in you!” tweeted Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda have also sent congratulations.
There were some clashes between Odinga supporters and police on Saturday. Hospitals and morgues reported no new deaths.
In Kisumu, the western city that is Odinga’s heartland of support, some shops opened on Sunday and traffic was moving normally.
“Kisumu is calm … for now the whole region is calm and we are happy,” Leonard Katana, assistant inspector general of police for the western Nyanza region.

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White House Confirms Trump Condemns White Supremacists, KKK, & All Neo-Nazi Extremist Groups

Following the media’s brouhaha around President Trump’s apparent decision not to specifically call out and condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who gathered in Charlottesville this weekend, The White House has issued a statement confirmingthat the president “does not condone violence, bigotry, and hatred… from any extremist groups.”

As The Hill reports, Trump took bipartisan heat on Saturday for not directly calling out hate groups in his remarks, and for blaming “many sides” for the violence.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said at a press conference from his New Jersey golf course.


“It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time,” he continued, before highlighting his administration’s accomplishments.

And so, as WaPo reports, in interviews on Sunday morning news shows, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and homeland security adviser Tom Bossert echoed the vague comments that the president made in a statement at his private golf club in New Jersey on Saturday, signaling that Trump does not plan to heed calls from fellow Republicans to bluntly confront and condemn white supremacy.

“What the president did is he called out anyone, anyone who is responsible for fomenting this kind of bigotry, hatred, racism and violence,” McMaster said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday morning. “I think the president was very clear on that.”


On CNN, Bossert repeatedly praised the president for not naming the groups that were involved and instead focusing on an overarching call for Americans to love one another.


He said that people “on both sides” showed up in Charlottesville “looking for trouble” and that he won’t assign blame for the death of a counterprotester on either group, although he said the president would like to see “swift justice” for the victim. After repeated questioning, Bossert did say that he personally condemns “white supremacists and Nazi groups that espouse this sort of terrorism and exclusion.” He did not say whether the president agrees with him on that.


“The president not only condemned the violence and stood up at a time and a moment when calm was necessary and didn’t dignify the names of these groups of people, but rather addressed the fundamental issue,” Bossert said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And so … what you need to focus on is the rest of his statement.”

But apparently that was not clear enough and so The White House issued a brief statement:

“The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred,” the White House said in a statement.


“Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups,” a spokesperson added.


“He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, took to Twitter on Sunday morning to write two short messages: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis,” and “We must all come together as Americans — and be one country UNITED. #Charlottesville.”

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’Meet a Muslim’ events hope to dispel misconceptions

Sun, 2017-08-13 03:00

FREMONT, USA: When Moina Shaiq realized even her friends were scared to ask her about her religion for fear of offending her or sounding uneducated, she put an advertisement in a California newspaper: “Questions and answers about being Muslim.”
The ad offered ideas for questions: Are women oppressed in Islam? What is the Islamic view of terrorism? How does Islam view other religions?
She set up shop at a coffee house in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fremont, hoping for good attendance, but brought her laptop to do some work in case no one showed. To her surprise, about 100 people turned out that day last year, and her “Meet a Muslim” program was born.
“It was over overwhelming,” said Shaiq, a mother of four and grandmother. “Fremont is so diverse, you will see women in hijab on the streets all the time. I didn’t think people here would be interested or even need to know about Muslims.”
Shaiq has since spoken about being Muslim and answered questions at dozens of libraries, pizza parlors and coffee shops in the San Francisco Bay Area. She recently expanded Meet a Muslim to churches, service clubs and private homes, and traveled to Arizona and Atlanta with the program.
She gives the talks once or twice a week on her own time and her own dime to break down stereotypes.
Similar programs emerged after 9/11, when many Muslims felt the need to engage with their fellow Americans to dispel negative perceptions of their faith. They’ve seen a resurgence with a recent uptick in anti-Muslim crimes.
Earlier this year, for instance, Muslim and former US Marine Mansoor Shams traveled the country with a sign that read “I’m a Muslim and a US Marine, Ask Me Anything.” In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mona Haydar and her husband set up a booth outside a library in 2015 with coffee, doughnuts and a sign that stated “Ask a Muslim.”
Shaiq said she started her program to educate people about her faith and culture while addressing people’s misconceptions and stereotypes.
She explains the importance of the hijab (head scarf) or niqab (face covering), the differences between Sunnis and Shias (the two main sects of Islam), the rights of women in Islam, and what it’s like to be an American Muslim today.
At a recent Rotary club meeting in Fremont, a man asked how she thinks people can combat Muslim extremism.
“This is where you start,” Shaiq said. “You understand what the faith is.”
Recent anti-Muslim incidents across the US include arson attacks, vandalism, harassment and school bullying. In May, authorities in Portland, Oregon, say a man killed two men and wounded a third after they tried to stop his anti-Muslim tirade.
Shaiq herself has faced threats at her events. One man in Atlanta warned he would “slit her throat” if she said something he didn’t like. He listened to the discussion, never asked a question and then left.
“That was scary,” Shaiq said.
Muslim leaders consider the incidents part of a deeply alarming trend that came to the forefront in last year’s presidential election with far-right activists portraying Islam — and all Muslims — as a threat.
They see echoes of these far-right views in President Donald Trump’s efforts to ban entry into the US from six Muslim-majority countries and in his claims of dangers posed by immigrants and Muslim refugees. Trump has said his policies are critical for protecting national security.
Initiatives like Meet a Muslim are important at “this time of heightened fear and xenophobia,” said Zainab Arain, who works to monitor and combat Islamophobia with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based Muslim advocacy group. “An effective way to push back against that, especially at a local level, is to gather people and have them get to know one another.”
Some American Muslims, however, have struggled to see the benefit of these efforts when they see community members having the same conversations they had almost 16 years ago.
“It’s just not a good use of time. The likelihood of changing a bigot’s mind is so low,” said Asha Noor, a racial justice activist based in Detroit.
Instead, Noor and other critics say the focus should be on policy change.
For Shaiq, her program is about sharing a message of love, compassion and peace.
Attendance at her talks spikes following news events that include Muslims, and the discussion often gets spirited, even tense and angry.
“I want to proactively educate my fellow Americans that Muslims are humans just like they are,” Shaiq said. “They have the same needs as anyone else.”

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