Biggest concern is that Kim Jong Un will 'miscalculate,' US military official says

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A top-ranking U.S. military official on the Korean peninsula said the biggest concern is that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will "miscalculate" his chances of winning any military fight against the U.S. and its ally, South Korea.

“Our biggest concern is that he's going to miscalculate. That's always our concern,” Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Bergeson, the number two U.S. military officer in South Korea told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on This Week Sunday.

“We want to make it crystal clear to the North Koreans' leadership that this would be a completely futile endeavor were he to challenge this strong, ironclad bilateral alliance,” Bergeson said in an interview at the U.S. Osan Air Base in South Korea, where ABC News got exclusive access to the base's air operations center.

Osan Air Base is just 48 miles from the border with North Korea, and its air operations center tracks airspace over all of South Korea. The center is first to detect whenever North Korea launches a missile.

In recent months, North Korea has conducted several ballistic-missile tests -– five in 2017, including a failed launch Saturday.

Raddatz asked U.S. military leaders in the south how the air operations center responds when North Korea shoots off a ballistic missile.

“You think it would be hectic but due to the level of training of the soldiers here, it's actually a calm exercise. I would compare it to maybe an air traffic controller tower ... when we're in exercise or even real world when we ramp up for crisis,” Col. Mark Holler, commander, 35th Air Defense Artillery, said.

Kim Jong Un has warned that North Korea is prepared to strike and take out American military bases, but Bergeson is confident the reclusive regime would not succeed.

“They could try, but as you saw today out here [our] air defense artillery brigade ... [has] the technology and capability and they're ready to intercept those kinds of missiles. so they could try but it'll be futile,” he said.

The U.S. air base’s biggest tool in defense is the patriot missile, designed to detect and stop a wide range of attacks -- including from inbound ballistic missiles -- with nearly 100 percent accuracy, the military claims.

But while military leaders on the base say they are prepared for any attack that could come their way, all-out war with North Korea would be the worst possible outcome, said Col. Andrew Hansen, commander of the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base.

“It would be a mess. War is always -- war is hell. It would be very brutal,” said Col. Andrew Hansen, commander of the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base. “I mean we have a very credible adversary.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Princess Kate curtsies to the queen ahead of Easter celebration

Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince William and Princess Kate joined Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle for Easter Sunday.

William was seen bowing his head to the queen, while Kate gave her a deep curtsy.

It is tradition for Kate to curtsy to the queen, although it is rarely seen and only happens when she first meets the monarch on any given day, so it generally takes place behind closed doors.

William's bow, meanwhile, is another sign of respect for her majesty.

Kate was dressed in a cream Catherine Walker coat, a favorite brand of the late Princess Diana, and a cream pillbox hat, while the queen wore a bright turquoise coat and hat.

Prince Harry missed Easter with the royal family, as he spent the holiday with his girlfriend Meghan Markle in Toronto.

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Hundreds mourn bombing victims at Egypt church 

iStock/Thinkstock(TANTA, Egypt) -- Hundreds of mourners gathered at the Mar Girgis church in Tanta, Egypt, on Easter Sunday, one week after twin bombings claimed the lives of 45 people and sent the country into a state of emergency.

The Coptic Christian church was the site of the first of the two bombings on Palm Sunday last week.

On Sunday, churchgoers waited in long lines to enter Mar Girgis, which still had substantial signs of damage, a Reuters video showed.

Outside of the church, people bowed their heads and prayed in front of wreaths and crosses that were laid out to commemorate the dead.

Last week's second bombing occurred several hours after the first, at Saint Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for both Palm Sunday blasts, which also left scores injured.

Last week, members of Egypt's Christian minority expressed anguish and despair in interviews with ABC News.

Egypt's Christian minority makes up roughly 10 percent of the country's population, according to a recent estimate by the CIA.

"With every attack, I feel like I'm less of an Egyptian," Nancy Emad, a 26-year-old case worker with an international nongovernmental organization who heard the news of the church bombings on her way to Mass in Cairo last week, said last Sunday.

However, she vowed that the bombings would not make her leave the country.

"I can leave for better economic opportunities, but not because my safety or my spirituality is not guaranteed because I will pray whenever I want and wherever I want," she said. "No one gets to decide [that] for me."

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Mike Pence arrives in South Korea, attends wreath-laying ceremony and Easter Sunday services 

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Vice President Mike Pence arrived in South Korea Sunday morning, landing at the U.S. Air Force's Osan Air Base just hours after North Korea's failed missile launch.

Pence's 10-day trip to the region also includes stops in Japan, Indonesia and Australia, with a stop in Hawaii on his return to the U.S. The trip follows the North's failed missile test, which was timed to the birth anniversary of the country's late founder and Saturday's military parade in its capital, Pyongyang. A U.S. aircraft supercarrier is also en route to the Korean Peninsula.

"Welcome to Korea! @VP Pence lands safely at Osan & is greeted by [charges d'Affaires at the U.S. embassy in Seoul] @MarcKnapper," the U.S. embassy tweeted Sunday morning, along with photos of Pence and his wife Karen deplaning.

And a tweet on the vice president's timeline read, "We have arrived in South Korea. Looking forward to spending Easter with our troops & bringing them warm regards from @POTUS Trump. #VPinASIA."

The Pences placed a wreath at Seoul National Cemetery during a brief ceremony.

"At Seoul National Cemetery, I laid a wreath to honor South Koreans who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom," Pence tweeted.

The Pences also attended Easter Sunday church services and had dinner with U.S. and South Korean members of the military at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul.

While speaking with U.S. members of the military, Pence addressed the failed missile launch, describing it as a "provocation."

"This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world," Pence said. "Your willingness to step forward, to serve, to stand firm without fear inspires our nation and inspires the world, and it’s an honor for us to share this meal with you today."

While in Seoul, Pence will hold a bilateral meeting with the country's acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn.

As ABC News previously reported, Pence will "reaffirm" the U.S. commitment to the "ironclad" U.S.-South Korean alliance, a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the trip.

"We're going to continue to consult with the Republic of Korea on North Korea's efforts to advance its ballistic missile and its nuclear program," the official said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


North Korea's attempted missile launch fails, US officials say

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- An attempted missile launch by North Korea failed when it exploded immediately after liftoff, a U.S. official says.

An official said a missile was launched near Sinpo, North Korea, at 5:21 p.m. ET on Saturday, and it exploded immediately.

"U.S. Pacific Command detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch at 11:21 a.m. Hawaii time April 15. The launch of the ballistic missile occurred near Sinpo," U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Commander David Benham said.

According to a Defense Department official, the missile that was launched was land-based, and there was a high degree of confidence that it was not an ICBM, but an assessment was still under way.

"It looks like it was probably a medium-range ballistic missile," said a White House foreign policy adviser. "It failed after about 4, 5 seconds, it was not an ICBM." The official added that the launch had taken place from the same location as another failed launch on April 5 from the Sinpo naval base.

An administration official said President Trump has been briefed at Mar-a-Lago on the failed North Korean missile launch.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis released a statement saying: "The president and his military team are aware of North Korea's most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The president has no further comment."

Vice President Mike Pence was briefed on what the vice president’s office called a failed missile launch on Air Force 2, while en route to South Korea.

Pence was briefed on the situation in North Korea within an hour of his departure from Anchorage, Alaska, and was in contact with President Trump, aides to the vice president told reporters.

While speaking with U.S. members of the military in Seoul on Sunday, Pence described it as a "provocation."

"This morning's provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world," Pence said. "Your willingness to step forward, to serve, to stand firm without fear inspires our nation and inspires the world, and it’s an honor for us to share this meal with you today."

As of Sunday evening local time, North Korea had not yet commented on the failed launch. The country's main Saturday news program did not mention it either.

According to the South Korean Yonhap News Agency, National Security Office chief Kim Kwan-jin called a session of the national security council.

The South Korean foreign ministry said in statement that the launch "has again violated the resolution of the UN Security Council and threatened the security of the Korean Peninsula and the international society. Therefore the government strongly condemns it."

The statement continued, "We warn once again that if it leads to a nuclear experiment and or the ICBM launch, North Korea will have to face punitive consequences. The government is discussing necessary agreements with the related countries."

The foreign ministry also said the country is "speeding up procedures to suppress the expansion and strengthening the ROK - US combined defense to protect the security of our nation and the lives of our people."

The launch attempt comes hours after North Korea rolled out intercontinental ballistic missiles and other military hardware at a massive parade to celebrate the birthday of the country's late founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un.

State television showed leader Kim Jong Un addressing the thousands of soldiers and civilians taking part in the parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, the capital.

 The festivities took place amid concerns that North Korea is possibly preparing for its sixth nuclear test or a significant rocket launch, such as its first flight test of an ICBM.

Tensions continue to rise between North Korea and the U.S.

Trump tweeted on Thursday that he had "great confidence" in China's ability to "properly deal with North Korea."

"If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will!" the tweet added.

"We will go to war if they choose," the official said of the U.S.

Last week, the Pentagon announced that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group would head to the Sea of Japan, instead of its planned port visit to Australia.

Deploying the strike group is a show of American military force during a critical time in North Korea's missile and nuclear development.

This is North Korea's fifth missile test this year.

The last test, conducted on April 4, occurred just days before Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

U.S. officials assessed that the SCUD-type missile spun out of control and landed in the Sea of Japan after traveling just 34 miles.

A mobile-launched missile tested on March 21 also exploded "within seconds of launch," according to U.S. Pacific Command. U.S. officials had not identified what type of missile was tested since it exploded so soon after launch.

But not all of North Korea's tests have been failures. On March 6, the country launched five medium-range SCUD missiles.

Four traveled more than 600 miles, the upper limit of their range, into the Sea of Japan. The fifth took off, but later crashed. Three of the missiles landed in waters in Japan's economic exclusion zone, which extends 200 miles from its shoreline.

The first test of this year -- the successful test of a land-based KN-15 missile on February 12 -- was considered "a major advancement" by North Korea.

Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told a congressional panel that its success was significant because it was "a new solid medium range ballistic missile off a new transporter erector launcher."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Emma Morano, the world's oldest person, dies in Italy at 117

OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images(VERBANIA, Italy) -- The oldest person in the world, and the last living person born in the 1800s, has died in Italy at the age of 117, according to multiple reports.

Emma Morano, born November 29, 1899, died on Saturday in Verbania.

When asked about the secret to her longevity, Morano said she ate three eggs a day, two of which were raw. According to BBC, she had cut down her diet recently to two eggs a day with a few biscuits.

According to the Gerontology Research Group, the oldest person in the world is now 117-year-old Violet Bown in Jamaica, born March 10, 1900.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Pence aims to reassure allies as tension mounts with North Korea

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Mike Pence will begin his highly-anticipated trip to Asia Saturday as tension continues to build on the Korean peninsula, with North Korea vowing to continue its provocative campaign to test and advance its nuclear program.

Pence, on his first official visit to Asia as vice president, will visit South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia before stopping in Hawaii on the return leg of his 10-day trip.

 “The most important message from the vice president on behalf of the president is that we have an ironclad commitment to stand with our allies in the region, in their defense,” Pence Press Secretary Marc Lotter said in an interview on ABC’s “Powerhouse Politics” podcast ahead of the trip.

The stop in South Korea, where Pence will spend Easter Sunday with American and South Korean troops and hold a bilateral meeting with Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, comes as North Korea celebrates the 105th birthday of founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the country’s current leader Kim Jong Un.

Pence will “reaffirm” the United States’ commitment to the “ironclad” U.S.-South Korean alliance, a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the trip.

“We're going to continue to consult with the Republic of Korea on North Korea's efforts to advance its ballistic missile and its nuclear program,” the official said.

While Pyongyang’s behavior riled the Obama administration, North Korea has taken an even more aggressive posture in the region in recent months, conducting several missile and rocket engine tests since the start of the year.

President Trump has responded with a series of remarks condemning the actions, saying North Korea "is looking for trouble" in a recent tweet and telling reporters on Thursday: "North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of."

 In a recent interview with the Associated Press, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol accused President Trump of creating a “vicious cycle” of tension in the region, and “making trouble” with his “aggressive” tweets.

"Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words," Han said. "So that's why. It's not the DPRK but the U.S. and Trump that makes trouble."

The White House has prepared for the possibility of another North Korean nuclear test during the vice president’s visit to South Korea this weekend.

While Pence will discuss regional security at other stops in Japan, Indonesia and Australia, he will also focus on trade and economic issues, and meet with business leaders throughout the trip.

In Japan, Pence will kick off economic talks first announced by Trump and Japanese President Shinzo Abe after their February summit.

Pence's visit to Australia, a close U.S. ally, comes after Trump criticized an Obama-era deal between the two countries to resettle refugees.

Trump discussed the agreement to resettle asylum seekers held in Australian processing centers with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a 25-minute phone call in the first days of his administration.

According to the Washington Post, Trump told Turnbull on the call the refugee agreement was the "worst deal ever."

Turnbull called the conversation with Trump frank, while White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president had a "very cordial" discussion with the Australian prime minister.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Why April 15th is the speculated date of North Korea’s next nuclear test

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- So far this year, North Korea has conducted four missile launches, including as recently as last Tuesday when North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan.

The missile launches have led to heightened tension on the Korean peninsula and strained relations between the U.S. and North Korea.

Now, U.S. officials are speculating that North Korea will conduct its sixth nuclear test on the country’s most important holiday - April 15th or “Day of the Sun” as it’s known in North Korea. The country has previously used holidays and anniversaries as a showcase for its arsenal of weapons.

The most recent North Korean nuclear test occurred on September 9, a holiday called the Day of the Foundation of the Republic that commemorates the day the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was founded in 1948, akin to the Fourth of July.

The Day of the Sun is the North Korean celebration of the birthday of its founder Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994 but is referred to as the "Eternal President."

Celebrations in North Korea traditionally include singing and dancing, fireworks, an international marathon, a military parade and a display of military strength and weapon capabilities. Festivities every five and ten years are traditionally more pronounced than others, according to KBS, the South Korean public broadcaster. 2017 marks the 105th anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth.

Last week, the U.S. deployed the USS Carl Vinson strike group to the Sea of Japan in response to North Korea’s “pattern of provocative behavior,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster said. The strike group, however, currently remains off the coast of northwest Australia participating in exercises with the Australian Navy.

“We will hold the U.S. wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions,” a DPRK foreign ministry spokesman said in response.

North Korea is technically still at war with South Korea and its ally the U.S., since the Korean War ended in a truce instead of a peace treaty.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Everything you need to know about North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un

STR/AFP/Getty Images(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- Speculation about a possible sixth nuclear weapons test in North Korea has heightened tensions and once again drawn the eyes of the world to the hermit kingdom and its secretive ruler, Kim Jong-Un.

Kim is the third head of state from his family’s dictatorial dynasty, one of the last inherited absolute monarchies on earth. Yet despite his unrivaled power in North Korea and his command over nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, remarkably little is known about him.

Dr. Van Jackson, a scholar on Korean security and an associate professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, told ABC News that North Korea’s secretive nature makes it hard to verify most information coming out of the country.

“Anybody who can answer all your questions with certainty has false confidence. Ask them to prove their answers and they won't be able to,” Jackson said.

In the absence of a reliable official biography, the information publicly available about Kim reflects a “broad consensus understanding” from experts keeping a close eye on the regime, Jackson explained.

Here is what you need to know about the North Korea's reclusive leader:

Early life

State-run media reports Kim was born January 8, 1982, though other reports indicate he may have been born in 1983 or 1984. He is the son of Kim Jong-Il and the grandson of Kim Il Sung, founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of the North Korean communist state.

Kim is his father’s third and youngest son, and was born to his father’s third wife, Ko Young Hee. In the 1990s, he attended two private schools in Switzerland, the International School of Berne in Gümligen and the Liebefeld Steinhölzli school near Bern, according to a Vanity Fair profile written by political writer Mark Bowden.

He later returned to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, where he attended the Kim Il-Sung Military University, the BBC reported.

Dr. Robert Kelly, a professor of political science at Pusan National University in South Korea, said Kim's late estranged half-brother, Kim Jong-Nam, who was murdered on Feb. 13 at the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia, was the would-be successor to the throne and his father’s favorite son. Kim Jong-Nam was being groomed for the position beginning around 2009.

Kelly noted that Kim Jong-Un "lacks the deep institutional and affective relationships with Pyongyang's elite which his father and grandfather had." He "parachuted in late" when his father became ill and his half-brother became an embarrassment after his arrest, according to Kelly.

Rise to power

In 2009, Kim was appointed to the state’s National Defense Commission. The next year, he was promoted to the rank of four-star general and was named vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and of the Central Military Commission.

When Kim Jong-Il died in December 2011, Kim Jong-Un was placed at the head of the party, the state and the army within a matter of weeks.

In 2012, state media reported that Kim was married to Ri Sol-Ju. Kim is reportedly a basketball fan. Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has visited North Korea on Kim’s invitation several times. Rodman later told The Guardian that Kim has a daughter named Ju-Ae.

The same year, Kim assumed the title of marshal of the North Korean army, the highest military rank in the country. He briefly disappeared from the public eye in 2014 and later reappeared with a cane.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s 2016 report on North Korea’s military capability described the violent means Kim has used to gain and hold power since assuming control in 2011.

Kim “has solidified his grip on power by embracing the coercive tools used by his father and grandfather. His regime has used force and the threat of force,” combined with suppression of dissenters, to “co-opt” the state military and elites, grow military defense capabilities and challenge the U.S. and its South Korean allies, the report said.

Kelly said Kim seems like a "classic Neronian dictator-figure -- grossly self-indulgent, vicious, prone to self-glorification -- but not stupid or irrational," in a way that might endanger his grip on power.

Nuclear program

According to the Department of Defense, Kim announced a policy of co-developing the country’s economic and nuclear weapons program in April 2013.

Since then, North Korea has continued to develop intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles while staging a series of nuclear tests. Before Kim took control of the state, his father reportedly tested nuclear explosive devices in 2006 and 2009. It is believed Kim tested nuclear weapons once in 2013 and twice in 2016. The rumored test tomorrow would be the first of 2017 and would be a breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions against nuclear arms proliferation.

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Why the US used the MOAB bomb to target ISIS fighters in Afghanistan

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On Thursday, the U.S. military dropped a never-before-used 22,000-pound bomb nicknamed the “mother of all bombs” on ISIS fighters in Afghanistan.

Why was now the right time to deploy the massive weapon? Here's what you need to know:

Why was the bomb used?

The top U.S. commander of American forces in Afghanistan said the bomb was deemed the best to target the ISIS-K’s tunnel complex in Nangarhar province, located in eastern Afghanistan.

Formally known as the GBU-43, or massive ordnance air blast (MOAB) bomb, it is the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat by the U.S. military. Thirty-six ISIS fighters have been killed, according to the Afghan Ministry of Defense. As of now, there is no evidence of civilian casualties and no reports of civilian casualties, but an assessment of the bomb damage to the area is still ongoing.

According to U.S. officials, the number of ISIS fighters in eastern Afghanistan is estimated to be between 600 and 800 -- a decrease from the estimated 3,000 operating in that area in late 2015.

The MOAB “is primarily intended for soft to medium surface targets covering extended areas, targets contained in an environment such as caves or canyons, clearing extensive mine fields, and for psychological effects,” according to Ann Stefanek, a spokesperson for the Air Force.

“This was the right weapon against this target,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces - Afghanistan, said in a press conference in Kabul Friday.

“The enemy had created bunkers, tunnels, and extensive minefields and this weapon was used to reduce those obstacles so we could continue our offensive,” he added.

Nicholson further explained that the purpose of the operation was to “eliminate” ISIS-K’s “sanctuary.”

Why was it dropped on Thursday?

Thursday was simply the proper tactical moment for this particular target, according to Nicholson.

"In regard to timing, it's when we encountered this target on the battlefield,” Nicholson said.

“It is not related to any outside events other than our focus on destroying Daesh in 2017,” he added, using another name for ISIS.

The U.S. military has been conducting operations against ISIS in Afghanistan for the past year, specifically in southern Nangarhar since March, and has reduced the threat to a smaller area by roughly “two-thirds,” Nicholson said.

“However this was the first time that we encountered an extensive obstacle to our progress,” Nicholson explained.

The obstacles, according to Nicholson, included IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and the presence of tunnels and caves.

The U.S. military’s planning to use the MOAB bomb goes back several months to the Obama administration, and Department of Defense officials were aware of the intent and plans to deploy the weapon.

Does the use of the bomb send a message to North Korea?

With North Korea reportedly preparing to conduct a nuclear test this weekend, President Donald Trump was asked whether dropping the bomb sends a message to the eastern aggressor.

“I don’t know if this sends a message. It doesn’t make any difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of,” Trump said Thursday during a meeting at the White House.

Col. Steve Ganyard, a retired fighter pilot in the Marine Corps and current ABC News contributor, said on “Good Morning America” Friday suggested it certainly raises an alarm.

“It sends a message to ISIS but I think the real question here [is] ... 'Was that heard on the other side of the world in Pyongyang and will it make an impression on Kim Jong-un?'" Ganyard said. "I think so."

Will the U.S. use this bomb again in the future?

“That depends on the tactical situation,” Nicholson said. “We employed this weapon for a specific tactical solution to a particular military problem and that determines when and how we operate when and how on the battlefield.”

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