By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
CARY, N.C. (ANS – August 11, 2017) – The tiny Pacific island of Guam, home of TWR’s powerful shortwave station, once again faces being caught in the crossfire between North Korea and the United States.
As reports emerged of the North Korean government’s announcement that it may launch a missile strike on the U.S. air base on Guam, KTWR’s soaring antennas on the island were beaming back gospel messages of love, peace and forgiveness. Collaborating with its national partner in South Korea, the TWR station transmits nearly 10 hours of Korean-language programming every week into the country often called the “Hermit Kingdom.”
With threats ratcheting up between the Donald Trump’s U.S. and Kim Jong-un’s North Korea over the latter’s growing nuclear-weapon program, Guam’s governor on Wednesday, Aug. 9, sought to downplay the danger to the island. Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo also emphasized that such an attack would be on thousands of civilians as well as on the military.
The Associated Press quoted a Guamanian bus driver as saying, “I’m a little worried, a little panicked. Is this really going to happen?”
TWR has been broadcasting from Guam since 1975, and KTWR’s Bible-based programming also reaches China, Indonesia and other parts of Asia. In North Korea, according to the InterMedia consulting group, foreign radio broadcasts continue to be an important source of outside information. And this is the case even though people caught accessing information not approved by the government can be imprisoned or even executed, Radio World magazine reported.
For this reason, some Christians bury their radios in the ground when not listening to them. You can listen to a brief audio report about this personal security measure at twr360.org/nkradios and watch a moving video featuring responses from TWR listeners in North Korea at twr.org/nkletters.
“Together we raise our voices in worship when the radio plays hymns, and we draw near to God when we listen to the messages,” a North Korean listener wrote to TWR.
Amid the unfolding geopolitical standoff, TWR president Lauren Libby said, “TWR speaks hope to North Korea every night. Join us in praying for this sensitive situation.”
TWR staff on Guam and around the world offer these suggestions for how to pray during this uncertainty:
- Pray for Guam and its 160,000 people as they navigate this tense situation over which they have little control.
- Pray for government officials to have the composure and wisdom to bring about a favorable conclusion.
- Pray for KTWR’s staff and broadcast ministry to North Korea, that they would remain strong and be spiritually and materially well-equipped to provide listeners with the life-giving gospel.
- Pray for the people of North Korea, that the Lord in his providence will improve the harsh conditions in which they live and that they will hear and respond to Jesus Christ’s message of eternal life.
This response from the Christian broadcaster follows news that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, crossing a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, U.S. intelligence officials concluded in a recent confidential assessment, according to The Washington Post.
In an article by Joby Warrick, Ellen Nakashima and Anna Fifield, to which Yuki Oda in Tokyo contributed, The Washington Post says the new analysis completed last month by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) comes on the heels of another intelligence assessment that sharply raises the official estimate for the total number of bombs in the communist country’s atomic arsenal. The U.S. calculated last month that up to 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Some independent experts believe the number of bombs is much smaller.
The Washington Post says the findings are likely to deepen concerns about an evolving North Korean military threat that appears to be advancing far more rapidly than many experts had predicted. U.S. officials last month concluded that Pyongyang is also outpacing expectations in its effort to build an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking cities on the American mainland.
Earlier Tuesday, North Korea described a new round of U.N. sanctions as an attempt “to strangle a nation” and warned that in response, “physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilization of all its national strength.”
In its analysis, the newspaper says that although more than a decade has passed since North Korea’s first nuclear detonation, many analysts thought it would be years before the country’s weapons scientists could design a compact warhead that could be delivered by missile to distant targets. But the new assessment, a summary document dated July 28, concludes that this critical milestone has been reached.
“The IC [intelligence community] assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles,” the assessment states, in an excerpt read to The Washington Post. Two U.S. officials familiar with the assessment verified its broad conclusions. It is not known whether the reclusive regime has successfully tested the smaller design, although North Korea officially claimed last year that it had done so.
The newspaper said the DIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) declined to comment.
An assessment this week by the Japanese Ministry of Defense also concludes that there is evidence to suggest that North Korea has achieved miniaturization, the newspaper said.
The Washington Post stated: “Kim is becoming increasingly confident in the reliability of his nuclear arsenal, analysts have concluded, explaining perhaps the dictator’s willingness to engage in defiant behavior, including missile tests that have drawn criticism even from North Korea’s closest ally, China. On Saturday, China and Russia joined other members of the U.N. Security Council in approving punishing new economic sanctions, including a ban on exports that supply up to a third of North Korea’s annual $3 billion in earnings.”
At the same time, the administration has been attempting to push North Korea toward talks, but Pyongyang has shown no interest in dialogue, the newspaper said.
“Determining the precise makeup of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has long been a difficult challenge for intelligence officials because of the regime’s culture of extreme secrecy and insularity. The country’s weapons scientists have conducted five nuclear tests since 2006, the latest being a 20- to 30-kiloton detonation on Sept. 9, 2016, that produced a blast estimated to be up to twice that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945,” the newspaper said in its article.
“But producing a compact nuclear warhead that can fit inside a missile is a technically demanding feat, one that many analysts thought was still beyond North Korea’s grasp. Last year, state-run media in Pyongyang displayed a spherical device that government spokesmen described as a miniaturized nuclear warhead, but whether it was a real bomb remained unclear. North Korean officials described the September detonation as a successful test of a small warhead designed to fit on a missile, although many experts were skeptical of the claim.”
The newspaper added: “Kim has repeatedly proclaimed his intention to field a fleet of nuclear-tipped ICBMs as a guarantor of his regime’s survival. His regime took a major step toward that goal last month with the first successful tests of a missile with intercontinental range. Video analysis of the latest test led some analysts to conclude that the missile caught fire and disintegrated as it plunged back toward Earth’s surface, suggesting that North Korea’s engineers might not be capable yet of building a reentry vehicle that can carry the warhead safely through the upper atmosphere. But U.S. analysts and many independent experts think this hurdle will be overcome by late next year.”
It went on to say: “Although few discount North Korea’s progress, some prominent U.S. experts warned against the danger of overestimating the threat. Siegfried Hecker, director emeritus of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the last known U.S. official to inspect North Korea’s nuclear facilities, has calculated the size of North Korea’s arsenal at no more than 20 to 25 bombs. He warned of potential risks that can come from making Kim into a bigger menace than he actually is.”
The newspaper concluded that in the past, U.S. intelligence agencies have occasionally overestimated the North Korean threat. In the early 2000s, the George W. Bush administration assessed that Pyongyang was close to developing an ICBM that could strike the U.S. mainland — a prediction that missed the mark by more than a decade. More recently, however, analysts and policymakers have been surprised repeatedly as North Korea achieved key milestones months or years ahead of schedule, said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. There was similar skepticism about China’s capabilities in the early 1960s, said Lewis, who has studied that country’s pathway to a successful nuclear test in 1964.
Photo captions: 1) North Korean military parade. 2) Kim Jong-un with his military. 3) TWR’s Bonaire antennas with gate. 4) TWR logo. 5) Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister, and an award-winning local cable-TV program host/producer who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. You may follow Michael on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Michael-Ireland-Media-Missionary-234951783610/ and on Twitter at @Michael_ASSIST. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
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