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North Korea Warns Of Nuclear Response If South Provokes It

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — For the second time this week, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un berated South Korea for touting its supposed preemptive strike capabilities against the North, saying her country’s nuclear forces would annihilate the South’s conventional forces if provoked.

In a statement carried Tuesday by North Korea’s state media, Kim Yo Jong called South Korea Defense Minister Suh Wook’s recent comments about preemptive strikes a “fantastic daydream” and the “hysteria of a lunatic.”

She stressed that North Korea doesn’t want another war on the Korean Peninsula but warned it would retaliate with its nuclear forces if the South opts for preemptive strikes or other attacks, which would leave the South’s military “little short of total destruction and ruin.”

North Korea has repeatedly stated it would preemptively use its nuclear weapons when threatened by rivals as it accelerated its development of nuclear bombs and missiles, which Kim Jong Un sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.

In another statement directed toward Suh on Sunday, Kim Yo Jong called him a “scum-like guy” and warning that the South may face a “serious threat” because of his comments.

Her statements come amid tensions over North Korea’s accelerating weapons tests this year, including its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017 on March 24, as her brother revives nuclear brinkmanship aimed at pressuring Washington to accept the North as a nuclear power and remove crippling sanctions.

Some experts say the North may up the ante in the coming months, possibly test-flying missiles over Japan or resuming nuclear explosive tests, as it tries to get a response from the Biden administration, which is distracted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an intensifying rivalry with China.

The renewed tensions have been a major setback for outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a dovish liberal who had staked his presidential term on his ambitions for inter-Korean rapprochement.

During a visit to the country’s strategic missile command last week, Suh said South Korea has the ability and readiness to launch precision strikes on North Korea if it detects the North intends to fire missiles at South Korea.

Seoul has long maintained such a preemptive attack strategy to cope with North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats, but it was highly unusual for a Moon administration official to publicly discuss it.

“In case (South Korea) opts for military confrontation with us, our nuclear combat force will have to inevitably carry out its duty … a dreadful attack will be launched and the (South Korean) army will have to face a miserable fate little short of total destruction and ruin,” Kim said in her latest statement.

South Korea’s government didn’t immediately respond to her comments. Seoul had issued a low-key response following Kim’s earlier comments on Sunday, urging Pyongyang to refrain from further raising tensions and return to dialogue.

Moon met Kim Jong Un three times in 2018 and lobbied hard to help set up his Kim’s first summit with then-President Donald Trump in June that year.

But the diplomacy derailed after the second Kim-Trump meeting in 2019 where the Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a limited surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Kim has since vowed to bolster his nuclear forces and sped up weapons development despite limited resources and pandemic-related difficulties. North Korea has also severed all inter-Korean cooperation while expressing anger over U.S.-South Korea military exercises and Seoul’s inability to wrest concessions from Washington on its behalf.

Before its resumption of long-range testing last month, the North had spent the much of the past three years expanding its arsenal of nuclear-capable short-range missiles threatening South Korea.

Experts say those missiles, which could potentially be armed with “tactical” battlefield nuclear weapons, communicate the North’s threat to use smaller nuclear arms even during conventional warfare to overcome the stronger conventional forces of South Korea and the U.S. The U.S. stations about 28,500 soldiers in the South to deter North Korean aggression.

Moon’s term ends in May, when he will be replaced by conservative Yoon Suk Yeol, who could possibly take a harder line on Pyongyang.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Biden’s special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, plans to meet his Chinese counterpart in Washington to discuss the North’s growing threat. China, Pyongyang’s major ally and economic lifeline, has repeatedly called for the easing of U.N. Security Council sanctions against the North, citing the economic toll on civilians. ___ AP writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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Putin’s Russia In Fresh Trouble As Ukraine’s Guns Are Now In Range Of Izium

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Ukrainian gunners shelled a Russian air-defense system in eastern Ukraine probably sometime in the past couple of days.

That itself isn’t all that noteworthy. Ukraine’s forces have destroyed dozens of Russian air-defenses since Russia widened its war on Ukraine in late February.

What’s important is where the shelling took place: just three miles northwest of Russian-occupied Izium, 60 miles southeast of Kkarkiv in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

Ukraine’s best medium artillery, its new American-made M777s, can lob 100-pound shells around 19 miles. That means Ukrainian forces have staged artillery no farther than 22 miles from Izium—and are blasting away.

Izium until recently was the locus of Russia’s faltering offensive in Donbas. The dozen or so Russian battalions in the area—15 percent of Russia’s entire army in Ukraine—in recent weeks pushed through Izium then west a few miles along the P79 highway.

The Ukrainian army’s 81st Air Mobile Brigade fought a tactical retreat along the P79, extracting a heavy toll on the Russians for every mile they advanced.

The result, however, was a Russian penetration several miles into Ukrainian-held territory south of Kharkiv, where Kyiv’s troops now are mopping up.

The Izium salient represents a risk—to both sides. If the Russians can deepen and strengthen the salient, they might encircle the Ukrainian brigades south of Izium in Severodonetsk and nearby communities.

Some of the best and most experienced Ukrainian units are in the Severodonetsk pocket. Surrounding and destroying them could tilt the war in Russia’s favor, at least in short term.

But there’s risk to the Russians, too. The Izium salient is vulnerable at its flanks, especially its northern flank. As Ukraine’s 92nd and 93rd Mechanized Brigades wrap up their operations around Kharkiv, they’ve shifted south to join the fight around Izium.

If Ukrainian troops west and south of Izium can draw out the Russian battalions, the 93rd in particular is in a position to cut across the Russians’ supply lines and isolate the front-line troops.

That the Ukrainians now are within artillery range of Izium is a strong indicator that the salient indeed represents a greater danger to the Russians than it does to the Ukrainians.

Russia already has lost as much as a third of its army in Ukraine; a defeat in Izium could add to that loss—a lot.

The Kremlin seems to appreciate the danger. There are hints the Izium salient no longer is the focus on Russia’s efforts in Donbas—and that Russian troops are repositioning south to join the fight around Lyman, a settlement that sits astride some important roads and railways and currently is under Ukrainian control.

Russian units including the T-72-equipped 90th Guards Tank Division in the past week have been advancing north and south of Lyman, clearly aiming to surround the town’s Ukrainian defenders, potentially including elements of the 57th Motorized Brigade.

The Russians are trying to do around Lyman what the Ukrainians are threatening to do farther north around Izium—get behind an enemy force and cut it off.

But don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. In late February, Moscow’s war aims were maximalist. It intended to capture Kyiv, decapitate the Ukrainian government and seize both Donbas and the entire Ukrainian Black Sea coast, cutting off the country from the sea.

Three months later, Moscow’s aims are minimalist. Kyiv is safe, Ukraine’s main port Odesa is safe and the only place Russia stands any chance of “winning” anything is in Donbas. And only parts of Donbas.

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Jean-Pierre: First Black Woman & LGBTQ Person Appointed White House Press Secretary

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The White House announced Thursday that Karine Jean-Pierre will replace Jen Psaki as White House press secretary in the coming week.

Jean-Pierre, the current Principal Deputy Press Secretary, will become the first openly gay person and first Black woman to hold the role of White House press secretary. The White House said that Jean-Pierre would assume the position on May 13.

“Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people,” President Biden said in a statement. “Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this Administration.”

“Jen Psaki has set the standard for returning decency, respect and decorum to the White House Briefing Room,” he said. “I want to say thank you to Jen for raising the bar, communicating directly and truthfully to the American people, and keeping her sense of humor while doing so.”

Psaki, who has held the role of press secretary since the start of the Biden administration, is expected to leave for a job at MSNBC.

Psaki described Jean-Pierre as a “remarkable woman” and noted her experience in New York City politics and government as well as her work as an adviser to Biden when he served as vice president during the Obama administration. Psaki also noted the historic nature of Jean-Pierre’s ascension to the role.

“Representation matters and she will give a voice to many, but also make many dream big about what is truly possible,” Psaki tweeted.

Thursday’s announcement ends months of speculation about who would replace Psaki when she decides to depart the administration. Jean-Pierre has always been viewed as the leading contender for the role, but other names have been floated as possibilities, including White House communications director Kate Bedingfield.

Psaki had initially planned to leave her role after about a year. Reports emerged last month that she was in discussions for a role at MSNBC. Psaki has not confirmed those discussions, and Thursday’s announcement said nothing about her future plans.

Jean-Pierre has a lengthy résumé of political and government jobs, including serving on Biden’s campaign and before that as chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org. She has worked in the White House under former President Obama and on Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

Having served as Psaki’s deputy for more than a year, Jean-Pierre has gaggled and briefed reporters from the podium several times.

Jean-Pierre made history about a year ago when she delivered her first briefing, becoming the first openly LGBTQ person to brief from the podium.

 

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Ukraine War: Watch As Putin’s Chief Of Staff, Gerasimov Got Wounded,30 Others Killed(Video)

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Vladimir Putin’s top military commander has been flown out of the war zone with shrapnel wounds after being to sent to Ukraine by the Russian president to secure victory, a former Russian internal affairs minister has claimed.

Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of the Russian army, was today wounded in Izium in Ukraine’s Kharviv region, which has been at the centre of intense fighting since Russia’s invasion.

Putin had sent Gerasimov to the region to take personal control of his push to grab territory in eastern Ukraine, after the Russian army abandoned its plans to take Kyiv at the end of March in favour of a concentrated assault on the Donbas region of Donetsk and Luhansk.

An unofficial Russian source reported that Gerasimov sustained ‘a shrapnel wound in the upper third of the right leg without a bone fracture.

‘The shard was removed – there is no danger to life,’ he said.

But Gerasimov’s injury was severe enough to have him flown away from the frontlines and back to Russia to undergo further treatment, marking another embarrassing defeat for Putin’s forces.

The chief of staff’s injury came just one day after Russian Major General Andrei Simonov, 55, was killed in Kharkiv, according to an adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

He is Russia’s ninth general to have been killed since the start of the invasion.

Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko said the precision strike on Izium was ‘the very place where…Gerasimov, who personally came to lead the attack on Slavyansk, was located’.

 

A ‘large number’ of senior officers were killed in the attack which wounded Gerasimov, Gerashchenko said.

Pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel Vertikal also alleged Gerasimov had been ‘wounded near Izium’, citing unspecified sources.

‘Our source reports that his legs and hips are damaged,’ Vertikal said.

It suggested that three of Gerasimov’s entourage had been killed before he was evacuated.

Russia is believed to have sustained heavy casualties in the eastern Donbas region and around cities Kharkiv and Izium, as Ukraine’s armed forces continue their bitter defence of the Donetsk and Luhansk territories which have been partially occupied by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

Russia’s military leaders are pouring troops and equipment into the east of Ukraine in an attempt to force a bloody victory after they abandoned plans to blitz through Ukraine’s north and seize Kyiv earlier in the war.

Britain’s ministry of defence yesterday said Putin’s troops in the east are still struggling to make ground despite the renewed support, citing poor tactics and the deployment of low-skilled troops as reasons for the slow progress.

‘Shortcomings in Russian tactical coordination remain. A lack of unit-level skills and inconsistent air support have left Russia unable to fully leverage its combat mass, despite localised improvements,’ the MoD tweeted.

‘Russia hopes to rectify issues that have previously constrained its invasion by geographically concentrating combat power, shortening supply lines and simplifying command and control,’ it said.

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