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World: U.S. may hold fire on North Korea ICBM test to get intel, if no threat

North Korea's claim on ICBM test plausible - experts

  North Korea's claim on ICBM test plausible - experts North Korea has been working through 2016 on developing components for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), making the isolated nation's claim that it was close to a test-launch plausible, international weapons experts said on Monday. North Korea has been testing rocket engines and heat-shields for an ICBM while developing the technology to guide a missile after re-entry into the atmosphere following a lift-off, the experts said.While Pyongyang is close to a test, it is likely to take some years to perfect the weapon.

The U.S. military might hold its fire rather than strike a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test in order to glean intelligence, if Pyongyang's ICBM launch did not appear to pose a threat, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday.

As Trump and North Korea’s Kim spar, China poses as the responsible actor

  As Trump and North Korea’s Kim spar, China poses as the responsible actor Trump's Twitter "warning" to North Korea is open to interpretation.Kim kicked things off in a New Year’s address Sunday by saying his country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which if successful, could ultimately put a nuclear warhead within range of parts of the United States.

The remarks stood in contrast to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's vow that, once in office, North Korea would never be able to fulfill its threat to test an ICBM. Trump said in a Jan. 2 Tweet: "It won't happen!"

"If the missile is threatening, it will be intercepted. If it's not threatening, we won't necessarily do so," Carter said in his final news briefing before President Barack Obama's administration leaves office on Jan. 20.

"Because it may be more to our advantage to, first of all, save our interceptor inventory, and, second, to gather intelligence from the flight, rather than do that (intercept the ICBM) when it's not threatening."

The top U.S. military officer, Marine General Joseph Dunford, who will stay in his role as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concurred with Carter's remarks. Dunford will be Trump's top uniformed military advisor.

Trump's slim NKorea options: Diplomacy, sanctions, force

  Trump's slim NKorea options: Diplomacy, sanctions, force Donald Trump says he is confident North Korea won't develop a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the United States. But his options for stopping the reclusive communist country are slim: diplomacy that would reward Pyongyang, sanctions which haven't worked, and military action that no one wants.For more than two decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have tried carrots and sticks to steer North Korea away from nuclear weapons. Each has failed. And as Trump prepares to take office Jan. 20, the stakes are rising.

FILE PHOTO: North Korea leader Kim Jong Un smiles as he visits Sohae Space Center for the testing of a new engine for an ICBM © REUTERS FILE PHOTO: North Korea leader Kim Jong Un smiles as he visits Sohae Space Center for the testing of a new engine for an ICBM

North Korea declared on Sunday it could test-launch an ICBM at any time from any location set by leader Kim Jong Un, saying a hostile U.S. policy was to blame for its arms development.

Once fully developed, a North Korean ICBM could threaten the continental United States, which is around 9,000 km (5,500 miles) from the North. ICBMs have a minimum range of about 5,500 km (3,400 miles), but some are designed to travel 10,000 km (6,200 miles) or farther.

Preventing an ICBM test is far easier said than done, and Trump has given no indication of how he might roll back North Korea's weapons programs after he takes office, something successive U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have failed to do.

Former U.S. officials and other experts have said the United States essentially had two options when it came to trying to curb North Korea's fast-expanding nuclear and missile programs - negotiate or take military action.

Neither path offers certain success and the military option is fraught with huge dangers, especially for Japan and South Korea, U.S. allies in close proximity to North Korea.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Editing by James Dalgleish)

Weird Mars Rock Spied by Curiosity Rover Is Probably a Meteorite .
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has stumbled onto another rock that likely fell from space. The object is a small, dark-gray spot among the reddish rock and dirt that make up the Martian surface, so it caught mission scientists' eyes. They named the mysterious rock Ames Knob and zapped it with Curiosity's laser-firing spectrometer, known as ChemCam, to determine its composition."You can even see the three spots in the image of Ames Knob where the ChemCam laser zapped the target," NASA spokesman Guy Webster, from the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, told via email.

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