The United States has condemned North Korea‘s recent rocket launch as a “‘highly provocative act’ that threatens regional security.” Tuesday’s event came as a surprise, as North Korea talked Saturday of postponing the launch by at least a week due to a technical problem. This launch fared better; the US military confirmed that the rocket’s satellite achieved orbit. The successful rocket launch indicates two emerging realities: 1) North Korea has taken one step further towards developing what the US believes is technology that could be used to strike its territory, possibly with a nuclear warhead, and 2) the quick turnaround of the launch after an announced postponement indicates that North Korea’s ability to construct and repair a missile is far more skilled than it was in April. Both realities could spell certain security concerns for the international community. It has yet to be seen whether the launch will result in action from the international community, most likely in the form of sanctions.
Experienced civil servant Diango Cissoko has been appointed the prime minister of Mali’s transitional government. Mali has been in a state of turmoil since a military coup ousted the government in March. The ouster exacerbated an already present conflict in the northern part of Mali, where radical Islamists with links to al-Qaeda have gained a stronghold in the absence of a strong central government. The new prime minister vows to make the crisis in the north his priority.
Austria has become the 22nd nation to get rid of all of its weapon-grade uranium. The country joins Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Latvia, Libya, Mexico, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine in this feat. Since 1996, 2,788 pounds of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) has been repatriated to the US under the NNSA (US-Origin) Nuclear Material Program. According to the agency, this amount is enough for 50 nuclear warheads. Efforts to repatriate HEU from countries around the world are made in the hopes of lessening the supply of fissile material vulnerable to terrorists for purchase or theft.
On the other side of nuclear security, the Obama administration has made cuts on the Megaports Initiative, which combats smuggling of radiological and nuclear materials through foreign seasports. Findings from the most recent review of the program have yet to be disclosed. The 85 percent funding curb has effectively halted the expansion of the program. One reason for the cut cited by the White House Management and Budget Office was the program’s “diminishing” impact.