Posts tagged Japan
The U.S. Air Force didn’t waste much time in putting into use two high-tech drones that it moved from Guam to Japan earlier this month.
The drones arrived at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan on May 24 and the first operational mission was flown on June 6, according to information released Friday by the U.S. Air Force.
Precise details of the mission or its destination were not disclosed, but from their base in Misawa the drones are much closer to North Korea and so can spend longer flying over the country if needed.
The U.S. Air Force’s 35th Fighter Wing said weather on June 6 was poor and ordinarily all airfield operations would have been canceled, but the drones were able to take off. That spotlighted “the Global Hawk’s ability to fly in adverse weather conditions,” it said.
While the weather in Misawa may have been bad, it probably wasn’t as bad as it sometimes gets in Guam over the summer months. The island is often hit by typhoons that ground all flights, including drones. Japan doesn’t get that sort of weather until September or October.
The two drones are scheduled to stay at Misawa through the summer.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk is one of the most advanced unmanned aircraft in the world. Built by Northrop Grumman, it can fly at an altitude of around 60,000 feet and has a range of around 14,000 kilometers.
The U.S. Air Force’s Global Hawk drone landed in Japan for the first time on Saturday.
The aircraft is one of the most advanced unmanned craft in the world and is typically used for surveillance and eavesdropping missions from its perch at around 60,000 feet — well above the level of commercial aircraft but lower than the maximum altitude of the U2 spy plane.
Usually based at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the Global Hawk landed at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan on Thursday, May 24, as part of a bilateral deal with Japan signed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in October last year. The deployment isn’t permanent but the U.S. hasn’t said how long it will last.
With a range of around 14,000 kilometers, all of North Korea was already easily within reach of the Global Hawk from Guam, should it have been sent there. Taking off from Misawa will mean quicker deployment over the country and a more time in the air, if that’s part of its mission — something that is likely.
For now, the Department of Defense isn’t saying much about what it will do from Japan.
When asked at a Washington news conference on Friday about the drone’s mission in Japan, DoD Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby only painted the broadest picture of what it might do.
“The Global Hawk, as you know, is a very versatile, state-of-the-art, sensor and communications system, aerial sensor and communications system,” he said. “They’ll be able to provide us with increased surveillance capabilities that can be used in a broad range of missions, from maritime domain awareness all the way to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
There’s an advantage for the U.S. Air Force in bringing the Global Hawk to Misawa. The summer weather in Guam includes regular typhoons that can ground the aircraft and impact missions. Japan isn’t typically hit by typhoons until much later in the season so the drone’s mission schedule should be more reliable.
While this is the first time the Global Hawk has landed in Japan, it’s not the first time it’s flown over the country. The U.S. used it in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami to survey damage along the coast and at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Both Japan and South Korea have said they would like to buy Global Hawk drones of their own.
Speaking during a public hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington, James Clapper said the two countries were working more closely together on intelligence matters.
“The Japanese are emerging as great partners,” said Clapper.
Clapper was responding to a question from Senator Marco Rubio (Republican, Florida), about a recently-passed Japanese state secrecy law. Rubio said he had just returned from a trip to Asia that included Japan.
“The passage of this secrets protection law will … enable us to do more sharing. We have recently agreed on an intelligence sharing arrangement where they will be sharing with us,” said Clapper.
Japan focuses its intelligence efforts on China and North Korea and in the last few years has launched a series of spy satellites that fly directly over North Korea.
Clapper’s appearance at the committee was preceded by the publishing of a statement on worldwide threats to the U.S.
The statement said North Korea “might again export nuclear technology” despite assurances to the contrary.
It also said, “We assess that North Korea has followed through on its announcement by expanding the size of its Yongbyon enrichment facility and restarting the reactor that was previously used for plutonium production. North Korea has publicly displayed its KN08 road-mobile ICBM twice. We assess that North Korea has already taken initial steps towards fielding this system, although it remains untested.”
Here’s video of Clapper’s remarks:
A website in Japan has begun offering an archive of several days worth of North Korean TV news broadcasts.
[Updated: see below]
The Pyongyang News website appears to be affiliated with a handful of sites operated by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (sometimes known as ‘Chosen Soren’ or ‘Chongryon’) (在日本朝鮮人總聯合會, 재일본 조선인 총련합회).
At time of writing, news bulletins going back to March 2nd are available. That’s longer than the 10 day archive offered by Elufa.net, another Tokyo-based website affiliated with the same group. The programs are received via a feed of North Korean television on the Thaicom satellite.
The new site has bulletins available as mp4 files that will play in most web browsers and as Windows Media format files for other applications.
It adds to an increasing number of websites through which Korea Central TV’s main evening news is available.
For many years the only source was Elufa.net, but in the last few years the news has also become available via the Seoul-based SPTV site and through several YouTube channels (Uriminzokkiri, Rodrigorojo1, Stimmekoreas).
The main evening news airs at 8pm local time each night on KCTV nationwide and through its satellite feed. The Thaicom feed is available through a large dish to viewers in much of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. There are no official feeds for viewers in Europe or the Americas.
Update: The site appeared to go offline several hours after our report. Keep checking the link for current status.
Japanese police suspect a consignment of 1,843 used computers and monitors allegedly exported to North Korea could have been used in a 2009 week-long attack on a handful of South Korean and U.S. websites.
The computers, allegedly exported in violation of Japanese sanctions, were shipped to the Pyongyang Informatics Center (PIC), a unit of the state-run Korea Computer Center (KCC), on June 18, 2009, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported quoting “investigation sources.”
Less than a month later on the July 4 weekend, a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack targeted 27 South Korean and U.S. websites.
DDOS attacks work by harnessing the power and bandwidth of multiple PCs to flood a website with traffic so it becomes overloaded. At least 20,000 PCs were used in the attacks, the majority of which were infected with malicious software (malware) that lay dormant before being issued a command to attack.
Because of the scale of the attack and the bandwidth required, it’s unlikely the PCs exported from Japan — if indeed they were used in the attacks — were on the front line of the attack.
In fact, it’s difficult to see how investigators have managed to pin those attacks on these computers. Japanese media reports don’t provide any detailed information.
The reports do say that Lee Soon Gi, the president of Tokyo-based used PC dealer Popura-tec (website, left), exchanged e-mail messages with Korea Computer Center officials which “suggest the existence of a hacker unit in Pyongyang.”
KCC is one of North Korea’s top computer knowledge centers and has long been suspected of involvement in a number of illicit online activities. It also runs the Naenara website.
Lee is believed to have met senior PIC officials before exporting the 1,843 units as he traveled to North Korea from March to April 2009 with a visiting group of members of the Zainichi Korean Science and Technology Association, an affiliate of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. – Yomiuri Shimbun, March 13, 2012.
The Korean Association of Science and Technology in Japan was raided by police earlier this month as part of their investigation.
On Monday Japanese prosecutors filed charges against Lee on suspicion of violation of the country’s Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law. Lee was previously arrested on suspicion of shipping 100 laptop PCs to North Korea in February 2009. In total, he allegedly exported more than 7,200 PCs to North Korea in previous years, reported the Yomiuri Shimbun.
Police in Tokyo conducted follow-up raids this week on the office of a North Korean-linked science association as part of an investigation into illegal PC exports.
The Korean Association of Science and Technology in Japan (在日本朝鮮人科学技術協会, 재일본조선인과학기술협회) was raided on Tuesday, according to local media reports.
Police were investigating a possible link between the group and Lee Soon Gi, the 49-year old president of used PC equipment seller Popura Tec (website, right), said the Jiji news agency.
Lee was arrested earlier this month along with two others on suspicion of exporting PCs to North Korea in violation of Japan’s trade sanctions.
The science association was formed in 1959 with roots going back to 1946 and has been raided several times in the past in relation to exports to North Korea.
- In 1994 the group engineered the purchase of a “jet mill,” necessary for production of solid fuel for missiles, that was allegedly exported to North Korea.
- In 2005 it was raided as part of an investigation into the unauthorized sale of ginseng medicines and misleading advertisements.
- In 2006 an executive of the group was arrested on allegations she attempted to smuggle 60 bags of an intravenous solution and 120 ampoules of liquid drugs to North Korea without declaring them. The solution is used to deliver amino acids to patients after surgery while the drugs are used to delay the progress of liver cancer. Police suspected the drugs were intended to treat scientists exposed to radiation.
The computers were allegedly exported to the Korea Computer Center, the Pyongyang-based computer research center. The KCC is suspected of being one of North Korea’s main centers for hackers and it has been blamed in the past for cyber attacks against South Korean companies.
Japan’s Kyodo News reported “The KCC is suspected of involvement in cyberattacks on Japan.” That’s the first time I have seen such a claim. Kyodo did not elaborate on the source of its information or the attacks.
Japanese prosecutors have indicted two people over alleged exports of personal computers to North Korea, Kyodo news agency reported Wednesday.
The two are accused of exporting 8.2 million yen (US$108,000) worth of computers from Japan in violation of the Japanese government’s trade sanctions. Japan has imposed a complete ban on exports to North Korea since June 2009.
The computers were allegedly sent to the Korea Computer Center, the Pyongyang-based computer research center.
An earlier report by Sankei Biz said the computers were shipped in July and December of 2010 under falsified papers that claimed they were heading to Shenyang, China, and Seoul. The shipment contained about 710 used PCs and monitors, the newspaper said.
Indicted were Lee Mun Ryang, a 61 year-old from Nagoya, and Kaoru Morino, a 44 year-old from Tokyo. Kyodo said Japanese prosecutors quoted both Lee and Morino as saying they knew the PCs would end up in Pyongyang.