North Korea test fires 2 short-range missiles

North Korea fired two missiles into the sea and vowed “merciless” retaliation on Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills, denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational.

The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North’s missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre rattling.

“And if there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the North orchestrating some kind of clash on the maritime border,” said Jeung Young-Tae, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.

The missile launches came with a stern warning from the nuclear-armed North Korean People’s Army (KPA) that this year’s military drills would bring the peninsula “towards the brink of war.”

The South Korean defence ministry said the two Scud missiles were fired from the western port city of Nampo and fell into the sea off the east coast, a distance of nearly 500km.

UN resolutions prohibit any ballistic missile test by North Korea and ministry spokesperson Kim Min-Seok said Pyongyang appeared intent on triggering a “security crisis”.

“We will respond sternly and strongly to any provocation,” Kim told reporters.

The Japanese government said it had issued a strong protest to the North given the danger such missile launches posed to aviation and shipping.

Missile tests have long been a preferred North Korean method of expressing anger and displeasure with what it views as confrontational behaviour by the South and its allies.

‘Brink of war’
“The situation on the Korean peninsula is again inching close to the brink of a war,” a spokesperson for the KPA General Staff was quoted as saying Monday by the North’s official KCNA news agency.

“The only means to cope with the aggression and war by the US imperialists and their followers is neither dialogue nor peace. They should be dealt with only by merciless strikes.”

North Korea has threatened attacks, including nuclear strikes, on the US before, although it has never demonstrated a missile capability that would encompass the US mainland.

The largest element of the two South Korea-US drills that began Monday is Foal Eagle, an eight-week exercise involving air, ground and naval field training, with around 200 000 Korean and 3 700 US troops.

The other is a week-long, largely computer-simulated joint drill called Key Resolve.

Seoul and Washington insist the exercises are defence-based in nature, but they are regularly condemned by Pyongyang as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

Retaliation threat
The KPA spokesperson said North Korea would respond in kind to any act of conventional, nuclear or cyber warfare.

“In case even a single shell drops on any place over which the sovereignty of the DPRK (North Korea) is exercised, it will promptly take counteractions,” he said

North Korea has carried out three nuclear tests, in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

In January, the North offered a moratorium on further tests if this year’s joint drills were cancelled, a proposal rejected by Washington as an “implicit threat” to carry out a fourth atomic detonation.

Analyst Jeung said Pyongyang was unlikely to conduct a fourth test just to protest against the exercises.

“Nuclear tests carry more significance than that,” he said, noting that the North’s testing schedule was primarily driven by technical development.

“On the other hand, there is the chance of a mid- or long-range missile test,” Jeung told AFP.

“I would say that a demonstration that it could deliver a nuclear warhead would be more threatening to the world than an actual nuclear test,” he added.

A new research report by US experts published last week estimated that North Korea could be on track to have an arsenal of 100 nuclear weapons by 2020.

In a further sign of rising tensions, the North Korean state-run website, Uriminzokkiri, warned Monday of a fierce response to any attempt by South Korean activists to float anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border by balloon.

“The response might not just be a few shots of gunfire but cannons or missiles,” the website said.

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Press release: Foreign Office Minister condemns Israeli settlement announcement

Press release

Foreign Office Minister condemns Israeli settlement announcement

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From: Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Tobias Ellwood MP23 First published: 30 January 2015 Part of: Working for peace and long-term stability in the Middle East and North Africa, Defence and armed forces, Foreign affairs, International aid and development, National security, Trade and investment, Israel and The Occupied Palestinian Territories4567891011

Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood condemns Israeli settlement announcement and urges reversal of decision.


Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood said:

The UK condemns the Government of Israel s decision of 30 January to publish new tenders for 450 settlement units in the West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The UK s position on Israeli settlements is clear: they are illegal under international law. We urge the Government of Israel to reverse this decision.

It is important to focus on steps that are conducive to peace.

Further information

Follow Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood on twitter @TobiasEllwoodMP12

Follow the Foreign Office on twitter @foreignoffice13

Follow the Foreign Office on facebook and Google+1415

Media enquiries

Email [email protected]16

News Desk 020 7008 3100

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Published: 30 January 2015
From: Foreign & Commonwealth Office19 Tobias Ellwood MP20 Part of: Working for peace and long-term stability in the Middle East and North Africa21 Israel22 The Occupied Palestinian Territories23


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News story: Eleven new centres to lead genomics project

News story

Eleven new centres to lead genomics project

Department of Health1

First published:
22 December 2014

Part of:

Increasing research and innovation in health and social care2, National Health Service3 and Science and innovation4

Eleven new centres across England have been chosen to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project.


The 3-year project, launched by the Prime Minister earlier this year, aims to improve diagnosis and treatment for patients with cancer and rare diseases.

The initiative involves collecting and decoding 100,000 human genomes complete sets of people s genes that will enable scientists and doctors to understand more about specific conditions.

The project has the potential to improve our ability to predict and prevent disease.

It may also lead to new and more precise diagnostic tests, and the ability to more accurately personalise drugs and other treatments to specific genetic variants.

It is anticipated that over 75,000 people will be involved, which will include some patients with life threatening and debilitating disease.

After samples are collected, they will be sent securely to Illumina who have been procured by Genomics England to sequence the whole genome and to analyse it.

Results will be sent back to the NHS for validation and clinical action.

The 11 designated Genomic Medicine Centres (GMCs) in this first selection process are based across the country covering areas including Greater Manchester, the North West coast, Oxford, Birmingham and the West Midlands, Southampton, London, Cambridge and the East of England, Exeter and the South West Peninsula, and the North East.

Over the lifetime of the project NHS England s ambition is to secure more than 100 participating NHS trusts.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman said:

Our understanding of genomics is transforming the landscape for disease diagnosis and medicines research.

We want to make the UK the best place in the world to design and discover 21st century medicines which is why we have invested in the 100,000 Genomes Project.

We also want to ensure NHS patients benefit which is why we have now selected NHS hospitals to help us sequence genomes on an unprecedented scale and bring better treatments to people with cancers and rare diseases for generations to come.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England s National Medical Director, said:

This is an achievable ambition which positions Britain to unlock longstanding mysteries of disease on behalf of humankind.

Embracing genomics will position us at the forefront of science and make the NHS the most scientifically advanced healthcare system in the world.

This is the start of a unique, exciting journey that will bring benefits for patients, for the NHS and for society at large.

Professor Sue Hill, the Chief Scientific Officer for England, who chaired the team evaluating the various applicant GMCs said:

The NHS has risen to both the challenge and opportunity of delivering its contribution to the 100,000 whole genomes project in the most extraordinary and unparalleled way.

Locally in the NHS, there has been clearly demonstrated engagement and involvement of senior managers, clinical teams, clinical genetic and molecular pathology laboratories and critically patients and the public, all committed to using the science of whole genome sequencing to making a real and lasting difference for patient benefit.

Professor Mark Caulfield, Chief Scientist at Genomics England

The creation of the new NHS Genomic Medicine Centres will play a key role in bringing together researchers, NHS clinicians and trainees to work on whole genome data that has never been collected on this scale before.

We have a clear goal of accelerating the findings from the programme back into mainstream healthcare at the fastest possible pace, meaning more rapid results for patients.

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22 December 2014
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