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North Korea launches second hypersonic missile in fiery test

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(Last Updated On: January 6, 2022)

North Korea fired a “hypersonic missile” this week that successfully hit a target, state news agency KCNA reported on Thursday, its second such test as the country pursues new military capabilities amid stalled denuclearisation talks, Reuters reported.

The launch on Wednesday was the first by North Korea since October and was detected by several militaries in the region, drawing criticism from governments in the United States, South Korea, and Japan.

According to the report North Korea first tested a hypersonic missile in September, joining a race headed by major military powers to deploy the advanced weapons system.

Hypersonic weapons usually fly towards targets at lower altitudes than ballistic missiles and can achieve more than five times the speed of sound – or about 6,200 km per hour (3,850 mph).

Despite their name, analysts say the main feature of hypersonic weapons is not speed – which can sometimes be matched or exceeded by traditional ballistic missile warheads – but their manoeuvrability.

In Wednesday’s test, the “hypersonic gliding warhead” detached from its rocket booster and manoeuvred 120 km (75 miles) laterally before it “precisely hit” a target 700 km (430 miles) away, KCNA reported.

The missile demonstrated its ability to combine “multi-step glide jump flight and strong lateral manoeuvring,” KCNA said.

The test also confirmed components such as flight control and its ability to operate in the winter, KCNA added.

“The successive successes in the test launches in the hypersonic missile sector have strategic significance in that they hasten a task for modernizing strategic armed force of the state,” the KCNA report said.

While it has not tested nuclear bombs or long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) since 2017, in recent years North Korea has developed and launched a range of more manoeuvrable missiles and warheads likely aimed at being able to overcome missile defences like those wielded by South Korea and the United States, analysts have said.

“My impression is that the North Koreans have identified hypersonic gliders as a potentially useful qualitative means to cope with missile defence,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

NEW MISSILE

Hypersonic weapons are considered the next generation of arms that aim to rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms, read the report.

Last month the United States completed construction of a massive, $1.5 billion long-range radar for a homeland missile defence system in Alaska that it says can track ballistic missiles as well as hypersonic weapons from countries such as North Korea, Reuters reported.

Photos of the missile used in Wednesday’s test show what analysts said is a liquid-fueled ballistic missile with a conical-shaped Manoeuvrable Reentry Vehicle (MaRV) blasting off from a wheeled launch vehicle in a cloud of flame and smoke.

It is a different version than the weapon tested last year, and was first unveiled at a defence exhibition in Pyongyang in October, Panda said.

“They likely set up at least two separate development programmes,” he added. “One of these was the Hwasong-8, which was tested in September. This missile, which shares a few features in common with the Hwasong-8, is another.”

In a call with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the North Korea missile launch and discussed cooperation to achieve complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

“We take any new capability seriously, and as we’ve said, we condemn (North Korea’s) continued testing of ballistic missiles, which are destabilizing to the region and to the international community,” a State Department spokesperson said later.

According to Reuters talks aimed at persuading North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile arsenal have been stalled since a series of summits between leader Kim Jong Un and then-U.S. President Donald Trump broke down with no agreement.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is open to talking to North Korea, but Pyongyang has said American overtures are empty rhetoric without more substantive changes to “hostile policies” such as military drills and sanctions, read the report.

The latest test came just hours before South Korean President Moon Jae-in attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a rail line he hopes will eventually connect the divided Korean peninsula, casting doubts over his hopes for an eleventh-hour diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea before his five-year term ends in May.

Science & Technology

Intel plans $20 bln chip manufacturing site in Ohio – sources

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(Last Updated On: January 21, 2022)

Intel Corp on Friday is set to announce it will invest $20 billion in a massive new manufacturing site near Columbus, Ohio to develop and manufacture advanced semiconductor chips, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The planned investment includes 3,000 permanent jobs on the 1,000-acre site in New Albany, Ohio. Time magazine, which first reported the news, said Intel will build at least two semiconductor fabrication plants.

President Joe Biden is making remarks Friday on the U.S. government’s efforts “to increase the supply of semiconductors, make more in America, and rebuild our supply chains here at home,” the White House said earlier.

Intel Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger is set to appear with Biden on Friday at the White House, sources told Reuters. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The initial $20 billion is the first step of what could be an eight-factory complex costing tens of billions of dollars.

Intel declined to comment on its plans but said in a statement that Gelsinger would disclose details Friday of “Intel’s latest plans for investment in manufacturing leadership” as it works “to meet the surging demand for advanced semiconductors.”

Chipmakers are scrambling to boost output after manufacturers around the world, from autos to consumer electronics, faced shortages of chips. Intel also is trying to win back its position as maker of the smallest and fastest chips from current leader TSMC , which is based in Taiwan.

Gelsinger last fall also said he planned to announce another U.S. campus site before the end of the year that would eventually hold eight chip factories.

He told the Washington Post the complex could cost $100 billion over a decade and eventually employ 10,000.

Gelsinger is driving Intel plans to expand, especially in Europe and the United States, as it seeks to heat up competition with global rivals and respond to a worldwide microchip shortage.

Intel and Italy are intensifying talks over investments expected to be worth around 8 billion euros ($9 billion) to build an advanced semiconductor packaging plant, Reuters reported late last year.

The Biden administration is making a big push to convince Congress to approve $52 billion in funding to dramatically increase chip production in the United States. The Senate in June voted 68-32 for the chips funding as part of a broader competitiveness bill, but it has been stalled in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she hopes to “go to conference” on the chips funding measure soon.

Still, Intel’s plans for new factories will not alleviate the current demand crunch, because such complexes take years to build. Gelsinger previously said he expected the chip shortages to last into 2023.

In September, Intel broke ground on two factories in Arizona as part of its turnaround plan to become a major manufacturer of chips for outside customers. The $20 billion plants will bring the total number of Intel factories at its campus in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler to six.

Intel told Time it considered 38 sites before picking New Albany, Ohio in December. Ohio has agreed to invest $1 billion in infrastructure improvements to facilitate the factory, Time said.

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United Airlines warns 5G plan would impact 1.25 mln passengers a year

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

United Airlines said late on Monday the current U.S. 5G wireless rollout plan would negatively impact an estimated 1.25 million United passengers and at least 15,000 flights annually and urged President Joe Biden’s administration to take action, Reuters reported.

According to the report U.S. airlines warn 5G interference could compromise key safety systems and result in suspended passenger and cargo flights. They want some 5G deployment set for Wednesday delayed around key U.S. airports.

United said the current rules “will result in significant restrictions on 787s, 777s, 737s and regional aircraft in major cities like Houston, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.”

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Twitter bans account linked to Iranian leader over Trump threat

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(Last Updated On: January 16, 2022)

Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.

“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.

The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani, AFP reported.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.

The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.

According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform, AFP reported.

The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.

As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.

He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

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