Interesting developments to come - See what made the cut...|
Tensions Mount on the Korean Peninsula
North Korea continues to keep its position as a geopolitical annoyance and a
concern on the Korean peninsula. At the end of last week, South Korean media
reported that North Korea placed two of its intermediate range missiles on
mobile launchers and hid them on the east coast of the Northern country. The
communist dictatorship of renowned madman Kim Jong-un in the North deployed
mid-range missile launchers to its east coast and reportedly warned foreign
embassies Friday it cannot guarantee the safety of diplomats after April 10. The
United Kingdom foreign office confirmed in a statement on Friday that North
Korea asked a number of foreign embassies in Pyongyang to consider moving staff
out since they could not assure their safety in the event of conflict. Under the
Vienna Convention that governs diplomatic missions, host governments are
required to assist in the evacuation of embassy staff from the country in the
event of conflict. "We are consulting international partners about these
developments. No decisions have been taken, and we have no immediate plans to
withdraw our Embassy,” the UK foreign office statement said. An unnamed
spokesman for the North Korean army warned the U.S. last Wednesday that its
military has been cleared to wage an attack using "smaller, lighter and
diversified nuclear" weapons. North Korean border authorities refused to allow
entry to South Koreans who manage jointly run factories in the North Korean city
of Kaesong on Wednesday. U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin
Hayden has called North Korea's threats "unhelpful and unconstructive." "It is
yet another offering in a long line of provocative statements that only serve to
further isolate North Korea from the rest of the international community and
undermine its goal of economic development," she said. "North Korea should stop
its provocative threats and instead concentrate on abiding by its international
obligations." For weeks North Korea has expressed their displeasure against
joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises taking place in South Korea and
has expressed anger over tightened sanctions for a February nuclear test.
Washington calls the military drills, which include fighter jets and
nuclear-capable stealth bombers, routine annual exercises between the allies.
Pyongyang calls them rehearsals for a northward invasion.
``The rhetoric is off the charts,'' said Victor Cha, former director for Asian
affairs at the White House National Security. According to news reports, China's
state news agency Xinhua quoted the North's Foreign Ministry as saying, ``The
current question was not whether, but when a war would break out on the
peninsula,'' because of the ``increasing threat from the United States''.
Reflecting efforts by the Obama administration to ease its rhetoric and cool
tensions, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said last Thursday the situation
did "not need to get hotter."
The United States announced on Wednesday that it was sending ballistic missile
defenses to Guam, a Western Pacific territory that is home to U.S. naval and air
bases. North Korea has cited those bases when listing possible targets for
missile attacks. The Pentagon reportedly is working to reduce the temperature as
it maintains a frank and vigilant stance toward the threats.
North Koreans held a meeting Friday for ambassadors, inquiring as to whether
evacuation assistance was needed. "We are consulting international partners
about these developments," the British Foreign Office said in a written
statement. "No decisions have been taken, and we have no immediate plans to
withdraw our embassy." North Koreans offered assistance to the Swedish ministry
of foreign affairs but, "did not urge us or ask us to evacuate," per a Swedish
spokesman. According to the U.S. State Department, the Swedish Embassy in North
Korea acts "as the United States' interim protecting power and provides basic
consular services to U.S. citizens traveling in North Korea,"
Denis Samsonov, spokesman for the embassy, told Russian state media that North
Korea requested the Russian Embassy consider a possible evacuation of its staff
because of the tensions.
While French foreign ministry are taking the situation "seriously", they have no
current plans to evacuate French nationals or personnel.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin dismissed reports in the Japanese and
South Korean media that the missiles moved this week could be a KN-08, which is
believed to be a long-range missile that if operable, could potentially hit the
United States. Kwan-jin told lawmakers at a hearing that the missile's range is
considerable but not far enough to hit the U.S. mainland. He described the range
in reference to a mobile North Korean missile known as the Musudan, which has a
range of 1,800 miles. The range would make Japan and South Korea potential
targets, but little is known about the missile's accuracy. According to naval
sources, South Korea has sent Aegis destroyers equipped with advanced radar
systems to both of its coasts, in response to the threat.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Friday said the United States would "not be
surprised" if North Korea launched a missile, "We have seen them launch missiles
in the past and the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly condemned
them as violations of the North's obligations under numerous Security Council
The BM25 Musudan is a mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile developed by
the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In a military parade on 10 October
2010 celebrating the Korean Worker's Party's 65th anniversary, the Musudan - or
a mock up - was first revealed to the international community. The liquid fuel
rocket design inhibits red fuming nitric acid as oxidizer and uses hypergolic
combination of unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine as fuel which does not vaporize
like liquefied hydrogen/oxygen gas at 35°C. The Musudan could maintain a 'ready
to launch' condition for several days, or even weeks however, because of tank
corrosion caused by the red fuming nitric acid, it could not be kept longer. The
missile has to be fueled at the launch site since it lacks the structural
strength to be transported on land.
Fisker Green Car Maker Verge of Default on Multi-Million
Dollar Loan from DOE
The struggling government-backed hybrid sports car maker Fisker Automotive,
located in Anaheim, California, fired nearly 160 workers in departments
including engineering, public relations and marketing or nearly 75% of its staff
- most of its rank-and-file employees - in a last-ditch effort to conserve cash
and stave off a potential bankruptcy filing. Severance pay was not offered since
the company reported it was something they could not afford. Fisker requested
that 53 senior managers and executives stay on board, primarily to pursue buyers
for the company's assets as well as to continue negotiations with U.S.
Department of Energy.
Fisker put its entire U.S. workforce on furlough late in March and hired law
firm Kirkland & Ellis to advise on a possible bankruptcy filing. A class action
lawsuit was initiated by disgruntled former workers, represented by attorney
Jack Raisner. Raiser represented employees of Solyndra, the government-backed
solar panel maker that terminated its employees shortly before filing for
bankruptcy in 2011. The current conditions of Fisker is similar to Solyndra's
final days... "It feels like almost deja vu," Raisner said. The lawsuit accuses
the automaker of violating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification or
WARN Act, which requires 60 days' notice for mass layoffs. The lawsuit seeks 60
days' worth of unpaid wages and other benefits, as well as interest.
Fisker continues to search for a strategic partner and said, "Unfortunately we
have reached a point where a significant reduction in our workforce has become
necessary." The green energy company has not produced a car since July and has
been seeking a financial backer to help finish the development of the Atlantic
and produce it at a Delaware plant. Chinese automakers Dongfeng Motor Group Co
Ltd and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group both considered buying a majority stake in
Fisker, but they balked at the terms of Fisker's loan agreement with the DOE.
Reportedly, Fisker is anticipating renegotiation of a DOE loan payment due on
April 22, around $10 million.
According to the loan agreement dated September 18, 2009, the DOE awarded Fisker
a $529 million loan as part of a U.S. program to finance advanced vehicle
development. Fisker pledged its assets, including equipment and property, as
collateral. The last payment from the DOE to Fisker came in May 2011. "The
Department of Energy stopped payment on the federal loan in 2011 after Fisker
stopped meeting their milestones, and is committed to the best outcome for
taxpayers," DOE spokeswoman Aoife McCarthy said in a statement. "Despite
Fisker's difficulties, our overall loan portfolio of more than 30 projects
continues to perform very well, and more than 90 percent of the $10 billion loan
loss reserve that Congress set aside for these programs remains intact," she
The company's flagship vehicle, the $100,000-plus Karma plug-in hybrid, quickly
won accolades for its styling and cachet with celebrities, including pop star
Justin Bieber and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who is also an investor in the
company. Of the DOE loan, Fisker used $193 million and earmarked the remainder
for a second plug-in hybrid, the Atlantic, however, the DOE froze the credit
line after delays in launching the Karma.
April 8, 2013