A spokesman for the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army told KCNA state news agency that the US ballistic missile interceptor test conducted on Tuesday “is just a serious military provocation that brings to light the US imperialists’ wild ambition for igniting a nuclear war.”

He called the interceptor test a “risky act” that indicates US “preparations for unleashing a nuclear war against” North Korea. Such “foolhardy moves” of the US military only prove that North Korea’s “bolstering the nuclear force for self-defense is entirely just,” according to the spokesman.

The US military, however, did not call the target of the test an “an ICBM from North Korea” or even imply it. An unnamed Pentagon official told Stars and Stripes that the test was planned “years in advance” and was not a direct response to recent North Korean ballistic missile tests.

The test was hailed by the Pentagon as an “incredible accomplishment” representing a “critical milestone” for the anti-missile program.

“This test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” US Missile Defense Agency chief Vice Admiral James D. Syring said in a statement.

North Korea, however, dismissed the results of the test as a “bluff,” as the ICMB interception system, according to the spokesman, would not prevent the “shower of nuclear strike” from North Korea.

“They are now bluffing, bragging about the ‘success’ in the test and the efficiency of the missile interception system. But the DPRK considers it just as a foolish act of those driven to despair,” the spokesman said. “The last-ditch gambling of the Trump administration for a nuclear war will only bring earlier the day when the US mainland will turn into ashes.”

The ability of Pyongyang to “hit US mainland” at the moment is doubtful, as all of the recently tested ballistic missiles have been short to medium range. The latest missile, launched on May 28, flew 450 kilometers before landing in the Sea of Japan, about 300km off the Japanese coast. In May, Pyongyang announced that it had successfully tested the Pukguksong-2 intermediate range ballistic missile as a projectile was detected landing in international waters off Japan’s east coast.

North Korea, poses a “clear and present danger” to the US, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday, stressing that Pyongyang actions “are manifestly illegal under international law,” as they violate UN Security Council resolutions.

“The current North Korean program signals a clear intent to acquire nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, including those of intercontinental range, that pose direct and immediate threats to our regional allies, partners and all the world,” Mattis said.


What’s next in US withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement


President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, an international pact to work to slow climate change that the U.S. entered last year under an executive order from then-President Barack Obama.

While Trump does have the power to pull the U.S. out of the agreement, it will not be able to happen overnight. Any member must wait three years before they are eligible to withdraw, which is stipulated under Article 28 of the accord.

Each member also has to wait an extra year for the formal notice of withdrawal to take effect, so the U.S. will formally be a party to the deal at least until late 2020, shortly after the next presidential election.

However, the Trump administration will be free to ignore the U.S. pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions during the time the country is still formally a part of the agreement because the commitments are not legally binding. Trump is also welcome to adjust the U.S.’s portion of the agreement without withdrawing.

There is a second route out of the agreement that the White House could have chosen to pursue: Any member that withdraws from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a 1992 environmental treaty, would be out of the deal.

Under the Paris agreement, Obama established some domestic policies like the Clean Power Plan through executive action, which bypassed the then Republican-controlled Senate.

The Trump administration’s plan to rescind that agreement stands in contrast with other major world powers that compete with the U.S., like China and India. Just this year, China agreed to invest $361 billion into renewable fuel over the next three years.

If Trump follows through on his promise, experts agree that greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures will increase more precipitously than they would have if the U.S. remained party to the accord.

However, the Sierra Club released an estimate that 60 percent of the emissions reductions promised under the Paris agreement could be met by local initiatives were they to replace coal with clean energy. This afternoon, 61 U.S. mayors released a statement reiterating their dedication to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.”

Advocacy organizations are also preparing to use lawsuits as a method to delay the dismantling of climate-related programs domestically. Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, tweeted that “the law will need to play a major role in pushing back against the attempted dismantling of our environmental and health protections.”


Snubbed! Furious Juncker vows Brussels will BLOCK trade deals between US and EU states


In a rancorous speech the EU Commission chief accused the eurosceptic President of giving him the “cold shoulder” and ignoring the role of eurocrats in running European trade negotiations.

Mr Trump has openly stated previously that he prefers dealing bilaterally with countries on a one to one basis and is not a fan of overbearing supranational structures like the EU.

He reportedly pressed Angela Merkel for a swift trade deal during her trip to the White House earlier this year, prompting a bemused response from the German chancellor who replied that all agreements had to go through Brussels.

The billionaire tycoon has also been publicly keen on striking an economic pact with Britain, which will be able to forge its own trade policy for the first time in 45 years once it has left the EU.

Talking about Mr Trump’s attitude towards Europe, the EU chief said: “They say: ‘We do not want to negotiate with you as a European Union but with each member state separately’.

“We cannot allow individual [trade] agreements between the Americans and individual European countries to take place.”

Mr Juncker made his remarks about the US administration just hours after it emerged that it is likely to pull America out of the international Paris Agreement on climate change.


Slump at the pump


A dramatic drop in oil prices is translating into a mixed bag for motorists across the globe – from hefty savings at the pump in the United States to a rare fuel price hike in Venezuela.

Oil prices have dropped nearly 70 percent in the past 20 months, driven down by a glut in supply. All countries have access to the same oil prices on international markets, but retail gasoline prices vary wildly, largely because of the taxes and subsidies imposed on them.

That has meant the impact of diving oil prices has been uneven around the world.


US, Russia back UN plan to restart Syrian peace talks


The United Nations envoy to Syria is trying to parlay a week-old ceasefire into peace talks that would begin on Wednesday in a staggered start.

“I see us beginning on March 10 when we will launch the process,” said envoy Staffan de Mistura. “Some [participants] will arrive on the ninth. Others, because of difficulties with hotel reservations, will arrive on the 11th. Others will arrive on the 14th.”

The negotiations would be held indirectly, meaning that the warring sides would not meet face-to-face.

“We will hold preparatory meetings and then go into detail with each group separately,” he said.

Whether the talks get off the ground remains to be seen as the key opposition group is balking. While international observers say the ceasefire is largely holding, the main opposition group – the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) – said parts of the country remain under siege.

While some of that fighting is the result of continued combat with the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda backed al-Nusra Front, which have both been excluded from the ceasefire, HNC sites are also being hit by Russian and Syrian bombers, and one aid agency says 135 people have been killed in areas included in the ceasefire.