By Pam Benson
Satellite imagery of a North Korean nuclear test site identifies what could be key installations that would likely play a prominent role if Kim Jong Un orders a test, which the government threatened to do on Thursday.
The analysis of the Pung-gye-Ri Nuclear Test site by U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North blog shows recently completed structures essential to an underground nuclear weapons test.
One is believed to be a command and control bunker. Another photo shows what appears to be a radio relay system that zigzags through a valley, which the 38North analysts believe could be used as part of a communications system linking the bunker to the North Korean leadership in Pyongyang.
"Located about 150 meters (164 yards) north of the test tunnel entrance, the bunker, used only when a test is about to be conducted, would contain equipment for controlling the nuclear device, managing instruments for gathering test data and communicating with authorities in Pyongyang," the report stated. "The bunker would also provide shelter for all personnel in the area."
By Jake Tapper and Jessica Metzger
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jake Tapper is an anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent for CNN. He’s also the author of the best-selling book about Afghanistan “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor”
In her senior year at West Point, Candace Fisher decided she wanted to join the Military Police since it would allow her the most options “to do the most soldier-like things,” Fisher recalled in an interview with CNN.
In 2006 and 2007, Fisher served at what would become Combat Outpost Keating, one of the most dangerous bases in Afghanistan. Fisher – who then went by her maiden name, Mathis – led a platoon of Military Police, supervising 36 troops, including six other women, attached to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 71st Cavalry.
With Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announcing today that the Pentagon would end its policy of excluding women from combat positions, Fisher – reached at Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks, where she is currently a small group leader for an officer leadership course – said the Army was acknowledging what has already in many ways become a reality in the military.
“It’s a formalization of what we’ve been experimenting with the last ten to twelve years in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Fisher told CNN. “I think that those two conflicts have probably given the Army a pretty good idea of whether or not an actual policy change was warranted.” FULL POST
The U.S. ambassador to Syria says the Syrian regime is slowly starting to crumble.
Ambassador Robert Ford said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Ivan Watson while touring the Islahiye refugee camp in Turkey that it is a slow process, but the signs are pointing toward decline.
"Members of the regime, little by little, are flaking off," Ford said, noting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's mother had fled the country and is now in the United Arab Emirates.
The former Foreign Ministry spokesman is now a refugee in the United States, Ford said. (Update, 9:11 p.m. - Senior administration officials tell CNN that the ambassador misspoke and that the Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman is not in the U.S.)
Ford said it is a slow process, but al-Assad’s government is falling apart.
"You can see, little by little, the inner core is weakening," Ford said. "But again, it's a gradual process."
Ford said when the U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met with al-Assad in December, the closeness of the fighting was evident.
"He told us that you could hear artillery outside the president's office," Ford told Watson. "The fighting is getting that close now to the inner circle itself. And so you can imagine what that does to their own spirits, their own morale."
By Elise Labott
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday took on Republican congressional critics of her department's handling of the deadly September terrorist attack in Libya.
Conservative GOP members challenged Clinton on the lack of security at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi as well as the erroneous account that the attack grew spontaneously from a protest over an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.
At two hearings, which together totaled more than five hours, Clinton acknowledged a "systemic breakdown" cited by an independent review of issues leading up to the armed assault and said her department was taking additional steps to increase security at U.S. diplomatic facilities.
Here are five things we learned from the hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees.FULL STORY
By Jessica Yellin and Holly Yan
Nine years after his presidential bid ended in defeat, John Kerry's political career might take a major turn Thursday during his hearing to become the next secretary of state.
The longtime senator from Massachusetts could sail to an easy confirmation, as politicians from both parties expressed optimism he would win approval.
"Over these many years, John's earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world. He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job-training," President Barack Obama said when he nominated Kerry last month.
"I think it is fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry, and this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead."
Kerry is noted for having the experience, gravitas and relationship-building skills that could help him succeed Hillary Clinton, the outgoing top U.S. diplomat.FULL STORY
By Hakim Almasmari
A U.S. drone strike on a vehicle just outside the capital of Sanaa killed six suspected al-Qaeda militants Wednesday night, three Yemeni Defense Ministry officials told CNN.
The strike took place in Al-Masna'a village of Khawlan district, 35 kilometers southeast of the capital. Three of the killed were senior members of al Qaeda, two of whom were Saudi nationals, the officials said.
Security teams were deployed to the scene, one of the officials said.
"Yemen needs stability and these militants must be killed if Yemen has a chance to stabilize, " said a Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to media.FULL STORY
By K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen
North Korea said Thursday that it plans to carry out a new nuclear test and further long-range rocket launches, all of which it said are a part of a new phase of confrontation with the United States.
The North's National Defense Commission said the moves would feed into an "upcoming all-out action" that would target the United States, "the sworn enemy of the Korean people."
Carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, the defense commission statement followed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Tuesday that condemned North Korea's recent rocket launch and expanded existing sanctions.FULL STORY