North Korea probably didn’t detonate an H-bomb, analysts say, but isolated nation’s program is gaining sophistication Nuclear nervousness Related Despite stern warnings from both China and the United States, North Korea tried to launch another test missile this week. Amid ramped-up global tensions over that nation’s rising nuclear capabilities, President Trump has promised a tough response. Vice President Mike Pence, visiting Seoul, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration could act more forcefully over the weapons testing. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un responded that he could embark on “all-out war” if provoked.North Korea’s latest missile launch failed, according to U.S. military officials. The attempt took place just one day after the government, during an elaborate military parade, displayed four missile systems that showed the nation continues to push its weapons program despite economic sanctions and tough talk from the U.S. government. Nuclear security analyst Gary Samore, A.M. ’78, Ph.D. ’84, is executive director for research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School. He shaped U.S. nuclear policy as White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction during the first term of the Obama administration and was the U.S. emissary during the 2010 and 2012 nuclear security summits. Samore spoke with The Gazette about the concern over North Korea’s nuclear test and the challenges the United States faces over the weapons program. GAZETTE: What do you think happened with the missile test? Was it an accidental internal failure, a deliberate ruse to obscure North Korea’s true capacity, or outside cyber sabotage, as some speculate?SAMORE: Well, there was a failure. I don’t know why it failed except there’s been quite a high rate of failure over the last year, and my guess is that’s mainly due to a very rushed pace of development. The North Korean missile program is making some progress, but I think that Kim Jong-un is willing to tolerate a very high rate of failure in his effort to try to develop a more credible long-range capability as quickly as possible. He may feel that he’s got a window of time to try to perfect some of these long-range systems, and he doesn’t seem to be deterred by all of the threats that the U.S. and China and other countries have been trying to dissuade him from continuing testing. But obviously, that’s not working.GAZETTE: What do you make of Kim’s “all-out war” comment? Was that a declaration of some sort, do you think?SAMORE: I think this is all just noise. Both sides are rattling sabers, but neither side is going to start a war. We recognize that a military attack on North Korea would probably not be effective in terms of destroying North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program and would run the risk of a North Korean retaliation against South Korea and Japan, which could cost hundreds of thousands of lives. And the North Koreans know that any attack on U.S. allies in the region would provoke an American response that would destroy them. So I think both sides are posturing, but I think the risk of war is very low.GAZETTE: Does China’s warning last week about “storm clouds” brewing suggest we’ve entered into dangerous, new territory with North Korea?SAMORE: I don’t think so. The Trump administration is trying to intimidate North Korea not to continue testing, and that intimidation includes both a military element . . . and the threat of additional sanctions. The Chinese are certainly playing along with the sanctions threat. The Chinese have communicated to North Korea publicly and privately that if they continue testing and, in particular, if they conduct a nuclear test, then China is going to join the United States in imposing additional U.N Security Council sanctions.GAZETTE: What difference can China make here and, given its track record, do you think it’s likely they’ll actually do something this time? What leverage, if any, does Trump have to get China to follow through?SAMORE: The good news for Trump is that China is genuinely upset about Kim Jong-un continuing to carry out this testing activity. In the last two U.N. Security Council resolutions, the Chinese have, for the first time, begun to sanction North Korea’s general economy — in this case, exports of coal and other minerals. If you look at some of the media in China, which is I think intended to be a warning to North Korea, the Chinese have floated the idea that they would begin to curtail oil exports to North Korea, which would be very damaging to the North Korean economy. So I think the Chinese are serious about imposing additional economic sanctions.On the other hand, the Chinese have always been unwilling to impose the kind of economic sanctions that could lead to economic collapse and instability in North Korea, and I think that continues to be the case. If the North Koreans do conduct a nuclear test or a successful test of a long-range missile system, I think you’ll see another U.N. Security Council resolution, which will take another step toward broader economic sanctions against North Korea, but still be short of the kind of sanctions that would be fatal to its economy.GAZETTE: How far along does North Korea’s nuclear program appear to be now? What is the next significant technological benchmark for them to reach?SAMORE: We know that they’re capable of producing nuclear weapons because they’ve tested five times. And we know they have a lot of experience testing short- and medium-range missiles, missiles that could strike targets in South Korea and Japan. What North Korea has never demonstrated is the ability to carry out a long-range missile test and successfully deliver a payload, and that’s the big weakness or the big gap in their system. They have a lot of long-range missiles on paper, and they’ve paraded mock-ups through the streets, but they’ve never actually successfully tested a long-range system … so until they do that, they don’t have a credible ability to target the United States with missiles. How far out are they? I have no way of judging. I don’t think we’ll know until they do it. GAZETTE: Politically speaking, hasn’t the mere ability to hit either South Korea or Japan been sufficient leverage for them?SAMORE: I think so. But I think they would feel even more comfortable if they could attack the United States directly. That’s their goal, and I think they’re trying to reach that goal. And sooner or later, they will, unless we are able to stop or delay their testing program. They will eventually achieve that capability. But you’re right. Their ability to attack South Korea and Japan has been sufficient for deterrence for decades. Even before they had nuclear weapons, the ability to target Seoul with conventional weapons — artillery and rockets and so forth — has been sufficient to deter the United States and our allies from attacking them. I have no doubt that Kim Jong-un would like to demonstrate in a credible way that he could attack the United States, but I have no way of judging how far away they are from achieving that.GAZETTE: You characterized the recent tough talk from the Trump administration and Kim Jong-un as saber rattling. Do you see evidence of a strategy underpinning U.S. talk and, if not, what should we be doing?SAMORE: It’s a good question. We obviously don’t have any solution to this problem. That’s why the North Koreans have been proceeding to develop their nuclear and missile programs since we first discovered them in 1984. So this is a problem that goes back to President Reagan, and we have failed, over the past five presidents, to find a way to resolve the problem, although I think we’ve been able to slow it down at different times through a combination of diplomacy and military intimidation and sanctions and so forth. So there’s no new secret out there; there’s no policy tool that hasn’t been tried already.I think the Trump administration is right to try to build up leverage through economic sanctions, and then, at some point, I hope they will pivot to an effort to try to negotiate constraints and limits on North Korea’s nuclear and missile program in exchange for sanctions relief, because we’ve begun to build up some pretty good bargaining leverage now, with Chinese help. So they’re doing the first part, which is the pressure part. Whether they ever get around to the second part, which is trying to negotiate …GAZETTE: Are talks realistic?SAMORE: I think it’s unclear. I think they have to wait and see, first of all, what the new South Korean government is like. The South Koreans have an election on May 9, and both of the candidates frankly are likely to have a less hard-line position than the current government, that of former President Park Geun-hye. So we’ll have to coordinate, as we always do, with the Koreans on a way forward. Then obviously President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping have started to have a conversation about this issue, as well. I don’t think it’s possible, at this point, to predict whether the Trump administration will pivot to a negotiation strategy once they feel they have substantial bargaining leverage.President Trump has exhibited tremendous flexibility in his foreign policy positions, having reversed just about everything he said he would do from the campaign. I just think it’s premature to judge. But in any event, the likelihood of diplomacy succeeding in anything more than delay, I think, is extremely low. So separately from whatever diplomacy we pursue, we’re also going to need to continue to develop and expand missile defense as a way to protect ourselves because sooner or later, the North Koreans will demonstrate that they have the ability to attack the United States directly.GAZETTE: Is there any reason to believe that if Kim Jong-un were removed, that there might be a possibility of détente?SAMORE: It’s a very good question. It depends on the scenario. If it’s simply a military coup, so Kim Jong-un is replaced by a junta of generals, then it’s not likely to fundamentally change North Korea’s policy, although they might be more willing to accept limits on the program. If there’s a complete collapse of the North Korean system — again, not likely, but if it happened — and there was unification under South Korean auspices, then I think you could solve the problem. I think whatever nuclear weapons they had would then be removed in that scenario.This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaAs state agencies struggle to operate under budget cuts andhiring freezes, volunteers can make a big difference in keepingtheir programs effective. At the University of Georgia, MasterGardeners do just that.”We’ve always relied heavily on our Master Gardener volunteers,”said Mel Garber, associate dean for Extension at the UGA Collegeof Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.”Master Gardeners play critical roles in delivering consumerhorticulture information to people across the state,” Garbersaid. “As a state agency, we’re able to make state dollars gofarther by maximizing the use of our volunteer work force.”Marco Fonseca, the Georgia Master Gardener coordinator, said morethan 2,200 people worked for UGA last year for 141,911 hours andnever drew paychecks.Cost of trainingTo become a Master Gardener in Georgia, you have to apply to theprogram, be accepted and complete a three-month training programand a 50-hour volunteering requirement.The classroom and hands-on training costs around $120 (about $6each for 20 twice-a-week sessions) and includes a 600-page MasterGardener manual. The instructors are county agents, UGA Extensionspecialists, Master Gardeners and green industry professionals.Master Gardener volunteers must work at least 50 hours within oneyear of their training. They work with their county Extensionoffice, where the program is administered. The county agentdecides how the Master Gardeners donate their hours.”Many of our Master Gardeners stand in for our county agents whenthe public calls a county office,” said Krissy Slagle, a GeorgiaMaster Gardener program assistant. “It’s important that theyanswer a consumer’s question and answer it correctly. And thetraining program prepares them to do so.”Big in the cityHelping county agents answer phone calls and e-mails isespecially helpful in metro areas, Slagle said.”In Atlanta, some county agents get 150 to 170 horticulture callsper day,” she said. “The heaviest need we’ve had for MasterGardeners is in the northern part of the state, where thepopulation is heavier and agents receive more calls than they canhandle alone. We’re very interested in having the program grow inthe southern part of the state, though.”Master Gardeners work outside of county Extension offices, too.”In Fulton County, the Master Gardeners put in a Gold Medal plantgarden in Centennial Olympic Park,” Slagle said. “Several MasterGardener groups put in ‘Plant-a-Row for the Hungry’ gardens,where the vegetables are donated to the needy. And MasterGardeners are working with Habitat for Humanity, installingplants and teaching the new homeowners how to care for theplants.”In schools, tooFonseca said another new part of the program is the TeacherMaster Gardener Program. Offered in the summer, this condensedprogram trains teachers to develop lesson plans centered aroundhorticulture.”The teachers then go back and coordinate the installation ofschool gardens that are used as teaching tools,” Fonseca said.”We’ve had 150 teachers participate so far.”Surprisingly, you don’t have to have a green thumb to be a MasterGardener in Georgia. You just have to have a giving heart.”Most people assume the Master Gardener program centers aroundgardening,” Slagle said. “Volunteering is the real meat of theprogram. And most of the volunteering centers around gardening.”Yesterday, todayThe program was developed by Extension Service faculty atWashington State University in the early 1970s. Since then it hasspread throughout the United States and Canada.Many county agents are accepting applications now for MasterGardener trainings to begin in January 2005. Contact your countyextension office for details.If you can’t take part in the program, you can still buy theMaster Gardener Handbook. Mail your order to: Georgia MasterGardener Program, 1109 Experiment Street, Cowart Building,Griffin, GA 30223. Include a check for $60, payable to “UGA CES.”(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of GeorgiaCollege of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
By U.S. Air Force Captain Rachel Salpietra/Joint Task Force Bravo December 08, 2020 After nearly a month of supporting foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (FHA/DR) operations under authorities granted by the U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense, at the request of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo) concluded immediate response missions for hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America on December 2, 2020.USAID initially requested the unique capabilities of SOUTHCOM to transport relief supplies to hard-to-reach areas. Now that weather conditions have improved and floodwaters are receding, roads are becoming passable and commercial transportation services are resuming. The operations supported by the U.S. military will now transition to local authorities, the United Nations, and nongovernmental organizations that are increasingly able to reach communities previously cut off by storm damage.In addition, USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) will continue to lead the U.S. government’s humanitarian response efforts, working in close coordination with local authorities and multiple partners on the ground to assess the needs of affected people and help coordinate relief efforts.“Support from JTF-Bravo was absolutely critical in these first weeks of the response,” said USAID’s DART Leader Tim Callaghan. “Working together, USAID and the U.S. military were able to deliver relief supplies to communities who urgently needed the assistance that nobody else was able to reach. We’re grateful for the strong partnership and thank all of the members of JTF-Bravo and SOUTHCOM for the support.”During the course of JTF-Bravo’s authorities to conduct FHA/DR missions, the command supported 295 missions, providing medical and casualty evacuations for people in need of urgent care. JTF-Bravo’s assets rescued 810 citizens, transported 163 rescue and aid workers, and nearly 350,000 pounds of food, water, hygiene kits, and other life-saving aid. Additionally, JTF-Bravo transported nearly 564,000 pounds of relief supplies in support of USAID-led humanitarian response to the region.“JTF-Bravo has been working non-stop since early November, as part of a team effort,” said U.S. Army Colonel John D. Litchfield, JTF-Bravo commander. “We’ve worked closely with our Central American partners throughout, and it’s been inspiring to see our friends and allies joining us to help people in their time of need.”JTF-Bravo worked closely throughout the disaster relief efforts with USAID, the U.S. embassies in Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama, and members and assets from SOUTHCOM, U.S. Army South, U.S. Naval Forces South, U.S. Air Forces South, U.S. Special Operations Command South, the U.S. Coast Guard, the United Kingdom Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and the French Navy.During the early, critical stages of disaster relief operations, the unique military capabilities fielded by JTF-Bravo enabled the United States to assist its partners in the region with immediate, life-saving efforts. Within an hour of receiving requests for support from the Honduran government, JTF-Bravo personnel were flying immediate life-saving missions.As friends and neighbors to Central America, JTF-Bravo has stood by its partners for nearly 40 years and continues to do so today. The task force stands ready to respond and assist should the need arise again.