Experts and satellite images show Iran rocket launch could be any moment

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Satellite Images Suggest Iran Preparing for Rocket Launch
  • One set of images showed a rocket on a transporter, preparing to be lifted and put on a launch tower. A later image Tuesday afternoon showed the rocket apparently on the tower.
  • Iran did not acknowledge a forthcoming launch at the spaceport and its mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • However, its state-run IRNA news agency in May said that Iran likely would have seven homemade satellites ready for launch by the end of the Persian calendar year in March 2023. A Defense Ministry official also recently suggested Iran soon could test its new solid-fueled, satellite-carrying rocket called the Zuljanah
  • A Pentagon spokesman, U.S. Army Maj. Rob Lodewick, said the American military “will continue to closely monitor Iran’s pursuit of viable space launch technology and how it may relate to advancements in its overall ballistic missile program.”

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Branson’s Virgin Orbit reaches space with key mid-air rocket launch

By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reached space for the first time on Sunday with a successful test of its air-launched rocket, delivering ten NASA satellites to orbit and achieving a key milestone after aborting the rocket’s first test launch last year.

The Long Beach, California-based company’s LauncherOne rocket was dropped mid-air from the underside of a modified Boeing 747 nicknamed Cosmic Girl some 35,000 feet over the Pacific at 11:39 a.m. PT before lighting its NewtonThree engine to boost itself out of Earth’s atmosphere, demonstrating its first successful trek to space.

“According to telemetry, LauncherOne has reached orbit!” the company announced on Twitter during the test mission, dubbed Launch Demo 2. “In both a literal and figurative sense, this is miles beyond how far we reached in our first Launch Demo.”

Roughly two hours after its Cosmic Girl carrier craft took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in southern California, the rocket, a 70-foot launcher tailored for carrying small satellites to space, successfully placed 10 tiny satellites in orbit for NASA, the company said on Twitter.

The rocket, a 70-foot launcher tailored for carrying small satellites to space, aimed to place 10 tiny satellites in orbit for NASA roughly two hours into the mission, though Virgin Orbit had not confirmed whether they were deployed as planned.

The successful test and clean payload deployment was a needed double-win for Virgin Orbit, which last year failed its attempt to reach space when LauncherOne’s main engine shut down prematurely moments after releasing from its carrier aircraft. The shortened mission generated key test data for the company, it said.

Sunday’s test also thrusts Virgin Orbit into an increasingly competitive commercial space race, offering a unique “air-launch” method of sending satellites to orbit alongside rivals such as Rocket Lab and Firefly Aerospace, which have designed small-launch systems to inject smaller satellites into orbit and meet growing demand.

Virgin executives say high-altitude launches allow satellites to be placed in their intended orbit more efficiently and also minimize weather-related cancellations compared to more traditional rockets launched vertically from a ground pad.

Virgin Orbit’s government services subsidiary VOX Space LLC is selling launches using the system to the U.S. military, with a first mission slated for October under a $35 million U.S. Space Force contract for three missions.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Daniel Wallis)

Branson’s virgin orbit completes key rocket test

FILE PHOTO: Sir Richard Branson attends the "Venezuela Aid Live" concert near the Tienditas cross-border bridge between Colombia and Venezuela, in Cucuta, Colombia, February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit on Wednesday released a rocket from the wing of a modified Boeing 747 jetliner in mid-air in a key test of its high-altitude launch system for satellites, the company said.

In the penultimate mission before Virgin Orbit offers commercial satellite launch services, likely before year-end, the 70-foot (21.34 m) LauncherOne rocket cleanly separated from the jetliner.

The rocket, loaded with water and antifreeze to simulate the weight of fuel, was set to crash as planned into the Mojave Desert as the jetliner, nicknamed Cosmic Girl, continued on its flight path.

Virgin Orbit, Firefly and U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Lab are among companies designing smaller or non-traditional systems to inject smaller satellites into orbit and meet growing demand.

Competition is fierce. Virgin Orbit has fallen slightly behind Rocket Lab, which has already completed six orbital launches, though Virgin Orbit says its rocket can haul about twice the weight.

Branson may also be losing a competitor in Stratolaunch, which had designed a larger aircraft-and-rocket combo system but is shutting operations, Reuters reported in May.

Virgin Orbit also has a significant potential customer. Branson’s Virgin Group has invested in OneWeb’s satellite constellation project which aims to have global broadband coverage in 2021 from about 650 satellites.

Virgin Orbit’s subsidiary VOX Space LLC is selling launches using the same mid-air launch system to the U.S. military, with a first mission slated for early next year.

Virgin Orbit said last month it plans to bring its satellite launch system to Japan in partnership with airline operator ANA Holdings Inc, which will provide maintenance and possibly aircraft.

That launch location will join other sites including the United States, Guam and the United Kingdom, which Virgin Orbit says will provide satellite makers and governments more flexibility.

High-altitude launches, Branson argues, allow satellites to be placed in their intended orbit more efficiently while avoiding some cancellations due to inclement weather on the ground.

Branson’s separate space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, on Tuesday, announced plans for a stock market listing by the end of the year, giving it much-needed funds to take on a rival suborbital tourism service being developed by billionaire Inc founder Jeff Bezos.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Alistair Bell)

SpaceX Falcon rocket blasted off on Sunday from a Florida launch pad

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Cente

y Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon rocket blasted off on Sunday from a Florida launch pad once used to send NASA astronauts to the moon, a step forward for billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and his company’s goal of ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station.

The 229-foot tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 soared off a seaside launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center at 9:39 a.m. EST (1439 GMT) carrying a Dragon cargo ship that holds supplies and science experiments for the station.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disappears into clouds after it lifted off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida,

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket disappears into clouds after it lifted off on a supply mission to the International Space Station from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Nine minutes after blastoff, the main section of the rocket flew back to a landing pad at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the eighth successful touchdown for Space Exploration Technologies Corp.

“Baby came back,” Musk wrote on Twitter, celebrating the landing. SpaceX had decided to delay the mission on Saturday, 13 seconds before launch due to concerns about the steering system in the rocket’s upper stage.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration closely monitored Sunday’s launch to learn more about the company’s operations before it clears SpaceX to fly U.S. astronauts.

The liftoff marked a successful debut for SpaceX at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, originally built for the 1960s-era Apollo moon program and later repurposed for the space shuttles. SpaceX plans to use the pad for commercial missions, as well as future manned flights.

The pad was last used for the final space shuttle launch in 2011. In 2014, SpaceX signed a 20-year lease and has spent millions on remodeling.

“It was really awesome to see 39A roar back to life,” SpaceX Dragon program manager Jessica Jensen told reporters after the launch. “This is a huge deal for us.”

It was also SpaceX’s first launch from Florida since an accident in September caused heavy damage to what had been the company’s prime site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located just south of the NASA spaceport.

NASA hired SpaceX to fly cargo to the station after the shuttle program ended. SpaceX and Boeing Co are scheduled to begin flying crews to the station by the end of 2018, but a U.S. government report last week said technical hurdles likely will delay both companies.

Last month, SpaceX resumed flying its Falcon 9 rockets using a second launch pad in California, where the first stage of the rocket also succeeded in relanding.

The company plans to reuse the rockets to slash costs and reduce pricing.

SpaceX aims to have the Florida launch pad damaged in last year’s explosion up and running by this summer.

(Editing by Letitia Stein, Jeffrey Benkoe and Alan Crosby)

North Korea satellite tumbling in orbit again, U.S. sources say

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea’s recently launched satellite is once again tumbling in orbit, after stabilizing briefly, according to a U.S. official and other sources.

The satellite update came as a key congressional watchdog agency said the U.S. military had not demonstrated its ability to protect the United States against a possible North Korea missile attack.

Earlier this month North Korea launched what it said was an earth observation satellite but what the country’s neighbors and the United States called a missile test. It was earlier believed to have achieved stable orbit but not to have transmitted data back to Earth.

The U.S. official, and two other sources with knowledge of the issue, said they are less concerned about the function of the satellite than with the technology involved in launching it. They added that the launch was clearly intended to demonstrate North Korea’s ability to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, the research arm of Congress, highlighted concerns about missile attacks from North Korea in a report released on Wednesday.

“GMD flight testing, to date, was insufficient to demonstrate that an operationally useful defense capability exists,” the GAO said. GMD is an acronym for a ground-based missile defense system.

The report said that the missile defense system, or the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, had only demonstrated “a partial capability against small numbers of simple ballistic missile threats.”

Ken Todorov, former deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the organization faced a difficult balancing act in meeting the needs of the U.S. military and operating with limited resources for testing.

Last month the Missile Defense Agency conducted a successful test of the ground-based U.S. missile defense system managed by Boeing Co aimed at demonstrating the effectiveness of a redesigned “kill vehicle” built by Raytheon Co.

The test purposely did not include an intercept by a ground-based interceptor but was designed to demonstrate the ability of new “divert thrusters” that were developed by Raytheon to maneuver the warhead.

The report said that while there were benefits in the way the agency was acquiring the kill vehicle, challenges remained.

It added that the Pentagon’s goal to reach 44 ground-based missile defense systems by the end of 2017 was based on a “highly optimistic, aggressive schedule” leading to “high-risk acquisition practices.”

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andrew Hay)

U.S. flies F-22 fighters over South Korea after North’s rocket launch

OSAN, South Korea (Reuters) – The United States flew four F-22 stealth fighter jets over South Korea on Wednesday in a show of force following North Korea’s recent rocket launch and ahead of the allies’ joint military drills next month aimed at deterring Pyongyang’s threat.

The flight of the radar-evading F-22s, based in Okinawa, Japan, is the latest deployment of key U.S. strategic military assets to the South after the North defied warnings from world powers and conducted a fourth nuclear test last month.

South Korea and the United States said the North’s rocket launch on Feb. 7 was a long-range missile test and violated U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban the use of ballistic missile technology by the isolated state.

North Korea said it was a satellite launch.

The U.S. military said at the weekend that it had deployed an additional Patriot high-velocity missile interceptor unit to South Korea in response to recent North Korean provocations.

The allies were also expected to begin discussions on the deployment of the advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.

Last month, the United States flew a B-52 bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons on a low-level flight over the South following the North’s Jan. 6 nuclear test.

The joint military drills scheduled to start in March, which in most years last eight weeks and involve hundreds of thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops, will be the largest ever, according to South Korean officials.

There are 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the South as part of combined defense with the South’s military of more than 600,000. The North has an army of 1.2 million.

North Korea claims the annual drills are war preparations. South Korea and the United States say the exercises, which have been conducted for years without major incident, are defensive.

(Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Michael Perry)

China urges North Korea, U.S. to hold direct talks

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s foreign ministry on Monday urged the United States and North Korea to sit down with each other face-to-face and resolve their problems, as tension continues to climb on the Korean peninsula after North Korea’s latest rocket test.

While China was angered by the launch, it has also expressed concern at plans by Washington and Seoul to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system, saying it would impact upon China’s own security.

“The focus of the nuclear issue on the peninsula is between the United States and North Korea,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

“We urge the United States and North Korea to sit down and have communications and negotiations, to explore ways to resolve each other’s reasonable concerns and finally reach the goal we all want reached.”

North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Feb. 7 carrying what it called a satellite, drawing renewed international condemnation just weeks after it carried out a nuclear bomb test.

It said the launch was for peaceful purposes, but Seoul and Washington have said it violated United Nations Security Council resolutions because it used ballistic missile technology.

North Korea’s nuclear bomb test last month was also banned by a U.N. resolution.

China, while frustrated by North Korea and having signed up for numerous previous rounds of United Nations sanctions on its isolated neighbor, has said it does not believe sanctions are the way to resolve the problem and has urged a return to talks.

Numerous efforts to restart multilateral talks have failed since negotiations collapsed following the last round in 2008.

Chinese popular opinion has become increasingly fed up with North Korea, a country once a close diplomatic ally.

In an editorial on Monday, the official English-language China Daily called for new U.N. sanctions to “truly bite”.

“The threat of a nuclear-armed DPRK is more real than ever,” it said, using the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Hong repeated that North Korea would have to “pay a price” for its behavior.

Tension persists on the Korean peninsula.

Last Wednesday, South Korea suspended operations at the Kaesong industrial zone just inside North Korea, as punishment for the rocket launch and nuclear test.

The North on Thursday called the action “a declaration of war” and expelled the South’s workers. Kaesong, which had operated for more than a decade, was the last venue for regular interaction between the divided Koreas.

Asked about the zone’s shutdown, Chinese spokesman Hong said the peninsula was in a “complex and sensitive” phase.

“We hope all sides can take steps to ameliorate the tense situation,” he said.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Though North Korea satellite not transmitting, rocket payload a concern

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A satellite put into orbit by North Korea at the weekend does not appear to be transmitting, but it is worrying that the rocket that took it there delivered twice the payload of Pyongyang’s previous launch, the head of the U.S. Army’s Missile Defense Command said on Wednesday.

“If you look at the previous launch and the payload it put into orbit … just the increase in weight is I think an important factor,” Lieutenant-General David Mann told a seminar on Capitol Hill organized by the Hudson Institute think tank.

“Whenever you are able to put something into orbit, that’s significant,” Mann said.

“I don’t think it’s transmitting as we speak, but it does reflect a capability that North Korea is trying to leverage in terms of its missile technologies,” he said.

“That kind of capability and then also the collateral usages for that technology are obviously very, very concerning to nations around the world in terms of ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) capabilities.”

Mann said the payload carried was almost twice as large as that carried in North Korea’s previous satellite launch in 2012.

He did not give a figure for the weight of the latest satellite, but South Korean officials have put it at 440 pounds.

Sunday’s launch, which followed Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear bomb test on Jan. 6, was condemned by the United States and countries around the world, which believe it was cover for development of ballistic missile technology.

The United States and South Korea immediately said they would begin formal talks about deploying the sophisticated U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, to the Korean peninsula “at the earliest possible date.”

South Korea had in the past been reluctant to begin formal talks on the Lockheed Martin Corp missile defense system due to worries about upsetting China, its biggest trading partner, which believes it could reduce the effectiveness of its strategic deterrent.

Asked when THAAD might go to South Korea, Mann said there was no timeline for a possible deployment, but added: “I think both governments are going to begin conversations looking at the feasibility of THAAD and we will see what happens from there.”

On Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said U.S. plans to for a missile shield in South Korea could trigger an arms race in Northeast Asia.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sandra Maler)

North Korea satellite in stable orbit but not transmitting, U.S. sources say

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea’s recently launched satellite has achieved stable orbit but is not believed to have transmitted data back to Earth, U.S. sources said of a launch that has so far failed to convince experts that Pyongyang has significantly advanced its rocket technology.

Sunday’s launch of what North Korea said was an earth observation satellite angered the country’s neighbors and the United States, which called it a missile test. It followed Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January.

“It’s in a stable orbit now. They got the tumbling under control,” a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

That is unlike the North’s previous satellite, launched in 2012, which never stabilized, the official said. However, the new satellite was not thought to be transmitting, another source added.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with the leaders of South Korea and Japan by phone on Monday night and reassured them of Washington’s support, while also calling for a strong international response to the launch, the White House said.

Obama will also address North Korea’s “provocations” when he hosts the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in California early next week, aides said.

The United States and China, Pyongyang’s only major ally, are negotiating the outline of a new U.N. sanctions resolution that diplomats hope will be adopted this month.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear tests and long-range rocket launches dating back to 2006, banning arms trade and money flow that can fund the country’s arms program.

But a confidential U.N. report, seen by Reuters, concluded that North Korea continues to export ballistic-missile technology to the Middle East and ship arms and materiel to Africa in violation of U.N. restrictions.

The report by the U.N. Security Council’s Panel of Experts on North Korea, which monitors implementation of sanctions, said there were “serious questions about the efficacy of the current United Nations sanctions regime.”

Western diplomats told Reuters that restricting North Korean access to international ports is among the measures Washington is pushing Beijing to accept in the wake of the Jan. 6 nuclear test and the weekend rocket launch.


Missile experts say North Korea appears to have repeated its earlier success in putting an object into space, rather than broken new ground. It used a nearly identical design to the 2012 launch and is probably years away from building a long-range nuclear missile, the experts said.

Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, told reporters that North Korea’s launch was “provocative, disturbing and alarming,” but could not be equated with a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

He said North Korea had never attempted to flight test the KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile it is developing.

Syring said U.S. missile defenses would be able to defend against the new North Korean missile given efforts to improve the reliability of the U.S. system and increase in the number of ground-based U.S. interceptors from 30 to 44.

“I’m very confident that we’re, one, ahead of it today, and that the funded improvements will keep us ahead of … where it may be by 2020,” he said.

The latest North Korea rocket was based on engines taken from its massive stockpile of mid-range missiles based on Soviet-era technology and electrical parts too rudimentary to be targeted by a global missile control regime, experts said.

South Korea’s defense ministry believes the three-stage rocket, named Kwangmyongsong, had a potential range of 7,457 miles, Yonhap news agency reported, similar to that of the 2012 rocket and putting the U.S. mainland in reach.

“I suspect the aim of the launch was to repeat the success, which itself provides considerable engineering knowledge,” said Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Separately, U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper said on Tuesday that North Korea could begin to recover plutonium from a restarted nuclear reactor within weeks.

Clapper said that in 2013, following its third nuclear test, the North had announced its intention to “refurbish and restart” facilities at its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

“We assess that North Korea has followed through on its announcement by expanding its Yongbyon enrichment facility and restarting the plutonium production reactor,” Clapper said in prepared testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Irene Klotz, Susan Heavey and Matt Spetalnick; Writing by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Dean Yates)

North Korea rocket launch may spur U.S. missile defense buildup in Asia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea’s latest rocket launch might kick off a buildup of U.S. missile defense systems in Asia, U.S. officials and missile defense experts said, something that could further strain U.S.-China ties and also hurt relations between Beijing and Seoul.

North Korea says it put a satellite into orbit on Sunday, but the United States and its allies see the launch as cover for Pyongyang’s development of ballistic missile technology that could be used to deliver a nuclear weapon.

Washington sought to reassure its allies South Korea and Japan of its commitment to their defense after the launch, which followed a North Korean nuclear test on Jan. 6.

The United States and South Korea said they would begin formal talks about deploying the sophisticated Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, to the Korean peninsula “at the earliest possible date.”

South Korea had been reluctant to publicly discuss the possibility due to worries about upsetting China, its biggest trading partner.

Beijing, at odds with the United States over Washington’s reaction to its building of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, quickly expressed “deep concern” about a system whose radar could penetrate Chinese territory.

China had made its position clear to Seoul and Washington, the Foreign Ministry said.

“When pursuing its own security, one country should not impair others’ security interests,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.


But the North Korean rocket launch, on top of last month’s nuclear test, could be a “tipping point” for South Korea and win over parts of Seoul’s political establishment that remain wary of such a move, a U.S. official said.

South Korea and the United States said that if THAAD was deployed to South Korea, it would be focused only on North Korea.

An editorial in the Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper, called that assurance “feeble”.

“It is widely believed by military experts that once THAAD is installed, Chinese missiles will be included as its target of surveillance, which will jeopardize Chinese national security,” it said.

Japan, long concerned about North Korea’s ballistic missile program, has previously said it was considering THAAD to beef up its defenses. The North Korean rocket on Sunday flew over Japan’s southern Okinawa prefecture.

Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Monday the Defense Ministry had no concrete plan to introduce THAAD, but added the ministry believed new military assets would strengthen the country’s capabilities.

Riki Ellison, founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, said the launch would give Japan momentum to deploy THAAD.

Washington moved one of its five THAAD systems to Guam in 2013 following North Korean threats, and is now studying the possibility of converting a Hawaii test site for a land-based version of the shipboard Aegis missile defense system into a combat-ready facility.


Some experts questioned how effective THAAD would be against the type of long-range rocket launched by North Korea and the Pentagon concedes it has yet to be tested against such a device.

THAAD is designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles inside or just outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight. It has so far proven effective against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

John Schilling, a contributor to the Washington-based 38 North project that monitors North Korea, said THAAD’s advanced AN/TPY-2 tracking radar built by Raytheon Co could provide an early, precise track on any such missile.

David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said that while THAAD could not shoot down the type of rocket launched on Sunday its deployment could reassure the South Korean public.

“Much of what missile defense programs are about is reassuring allies and the public,” he said.


One U.S. official said the North Korean launch added urgency to longstanding informal discussions about a possible THAAD deployment to South Korea. “Speed is the priority,” said the official, who asked not to be named ahead of a formal decision.

Renewed missile-defense discussions with the United States could also send a message to Beijing that it needs to do more to rein in North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs, another U.S. official said.

South Korean officials have already identified a suitable site for the system, but it could also be placed at a U.S. base on the Korean peninsula, Ellison said.

THAAD is a system built by Lockheed Martin Corp that can be transported by air, sea or land. The Pentagon has ordered two more batteries from Lockheed.

One of the four THAAD batteries based at Fort Bliss, Texas, is always ready for deployment overseas, and could be sent to Japan or South Korea within weeks, Ellison said.

Lockheed referred all questions about a possible THAAD deployment to the U.S. military.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick in Washington. Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Tim Kelly in Tokyo and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Dean Yates and Lincoln Feast)