Saturday, June 4, 2011

IISS Launches North Korea Nuke Study

SINGAPORE - North Korea's third nuclear test will likely be a highly enriched uranium (HEU) bomb, and neither China nor the United States can stop or reverse Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
These are the conclusions of a new study by Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, at a book launch at the Shangri-La Dialogue on June 3 in Singapore.
"No Exit: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons and International Security" looks at how North Korea has staked its future on the development of nuclear weapons and why the hermit nation will never surrender them.
Organized by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), the book launch is part of the 10th Asia Security Summit, dubbed The Shangri-La Dialogue, being held June 3-5 in Singapore. The book is part of IISS Adelphi book series that looks at international defense and security issues.
North Korea conducted two underground plutonium bomb tests in 2006 and 2009, and has been developing advanced long-range ballistic missile capabilities that could someday threaten the continental U.S.
Pollack looks at why North Korea disregards United Nations censure and openly circumvents sanctions by selling weapons and technology to other pariah nations to fund its nuclear program.
North Korea is more of a traditional Korean dynasty and not a communist state, Pollack said. The Kim family has successfully ignored efforts by China and the U.S. to influence it to abandon its nuclear program and adopt capitalist reforms. Instead, the Kim family has created an "impregnable fortress" that protects the family dynasty.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and China's push towards improved relations with South Korea during the 1980s and 1990s, North Korea became concerned that its traditional protectors would abandon it. The only course of action was to create a mechanism that guaranteed its survivability. Nuclear weapons have clearly served that purpose well, he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once referred to North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons as a "small child seeking attention." Pollack does not believe this is the correct analogy. "This is a system of old men who have made the pursuit of these capabilities their life time work." He pointed out that North Korea made a conscious decision to begin a nuclear program in the 1970s, as ties between Beijing and Washington began improving.
Despite the fact that North Korea occasionally "drops hints" the nuclear program is a "bargaining chip" that can be exchanged for rice and oil, the reality is that Pyongyang has no intention of surrendering the capability.
The best course of action, Pollack said, is to continue sanctions and other pressure that slows further development, especially efforts by the North to miniaturize a nuclear warhead for fitting on a ballistic missile.

Russia: France, U.K. Could Send Troops Into Libya

MOSCOW - Russia's top diplomat warned June 4 that the NATO operation in Libya was "sliding towards" a land campaign, a prospect he said Moscow viewed as "deplorable," the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
"We know that France and Britain intend to use military helicopters. We have given our view of NATO's actions," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency.
"We consider that what is going on is either consciously or unconsciously sliding towards a land operation. That would be very deplorable," he added.
"We think our Western partners understand that the events in Libya are taking an undesirable turn, but the decisions that have been taken are continuing by momentum," Lavrov told journalists in Odessa, according to the news agency.
Lavrov's comments came after NATO acknowledged June 4 that it had deployed British and French attack helicopters against Moammar Gadhafi's forces for the first time.
Russian President Dmitry Mevedev's special representative on Africa said earlier June 4 that he would travel late June 6 to Libya to try to mediate the conflict, the Interfax news agency reported.
Mikhail Margelov said he plans to visit the rebel stronghold of Benghazi "to meet leaders of Libya's National Transitional Council," according to the Interfax report.
Russia abstained from the U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya and has called for a negotiated solution to the conflict, which has cost thousands of lives since it erupted in mid-February.

Top Al-Qaida Militant Killed in Pakistan: Officials

ISLAMABAD - A U.S. drone strike likely killed Pakistan's Al-Qaida commander Ilyas Kashmiri, in what would deal a major blow to the terror network a month after Osama bin Laden's death, officials said June 4.
The 47-year-old Kashmiri is one of the most feared operational commanders of the network that bin Laden founded and has been blamed for a string of high-profile attacks on western targets, as well as in India and Pakistan.
He has a maximum U.S. bounty of $5 million on his head, and Pakistani officials said he was the target of a U.S. drone strike in South Waziristan on the Afghan border on June 3, in which nine members of his banned group died.
His killing would likely be seen as a huge achievement in the United States after U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in Pakistan, itself feted as the greatest psychological victory over al-Qaida since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A senior Pakistani security official said there were "strong indications" that Kashmiri had been killed, but that it was impossible to provide 100 percent confirmation so soon after the attack without access to the bodies.
The corpses were burnt beyond recognition and swiftly buried. Militants also barred access to the site of the attack in Ghwakhwa in South Waziristan, a militant stronghold despite a sweeping Pakistani offensive in 2009.
"There are strong indications that he has been killed in the strike, but we cannot confirm it and we are still trying to confirm it," the senior Pakistani official said on condition of anonymity.
Pakistani officials said Kashmiri had been in the area for several days and that all those killed were from his Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islam (HuJI) group.
Senior security officials explained that confirmation would be difficult unless Kashmiri's family or his group officially announced his death.
"According to our reports, he was present here in this area. We have information that he has been killed but no one has seen his dead body," local administration official Naimat Ullah told AFP.
Another security official said two close associates who usually travel with Kashmiri, Amir Hamza and Mohammad Usman, were killed.
Kashmiri is understood to have been in the area to discuss strategy should the Pakistani military launch an offensive in North Waziristan, as has been predicted as part of the fallout surrounding bin Laden's killing.
Anti-terrorism experts have long described Kashmiri as one of al-Qaida's main operational commanders. He reportedly escaped a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan in late 2009.
He has been blamed for multiple attacks in Pakistan, including the two most humiliating assaults on the military - a May 22 siege on a naval air base in Karachi and in October 2009 on the national army headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Counterterrorism officials believe he was the main coordinator of a terror plot targeting Britain, France, Germany and the United States, which was apparently in the early stages when detected by intelligence agencies in 2010.
Kashmiri's family in the village of Thathi in Bhimber district, more than nine hours' drive from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, said June 4 they had not been in contact with him for six years.
"We came to know through TV. We don't know whether he is dead or alive," his elder brother Mohammad Asghar said by telephone.
A spokesman for Pakistan's umbrella Taliban faction said Kashmiri was "alive and safe," and had not been present at the time of the strike.
In January 2010, a U.S. federal grand jury indicted him for terrorism-related offences in connection with a plot to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten following uproar over blasphemous cartoons.
Listed on U.S. and U.N. terror blacklists, Kashmiri was born in 1964 in Azad, Kashmir. He is about 6 feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds.
He has black hair and been seen with a thick beard dyed white, black, or red at various times.
He has lost sight in one eye, and often wears aviator-style sunglasses. He is missing an index finger, according to the U.S. State Department.
The June 3 drone attack was the ninth reported in Pakistan's border area with Afghanistan, branded by Washington the global headquarters of al-Qaida, since U.S. commandos killed bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2.
The raid sent shockwaves through Pakistan's seemingly powerful security establishment, with its intelligence services widely accused of incompetence or complicity over the presence of bin Laden close to a military academy.

WikiLeaks: Indian army poses as obstacle to Siachen solution

There has been repeated failure to reach a solution on the Siachen dispute due to the Indian army’s resistance to giving up its territory under any condition, according to latest cables released by Wikileaks.

According to the 2006 cable classified by the Deputy Chief of Mission Geoff Pyatt, the reasons for the Indian army’s resistance are its strategic advantage over China, internal army corruption, distrust of Pakistan and a desire to keep hold of advantageous territory that thousands of Indian soldiers have died protecting.
The cable stated that every time India and Pakistan came “very close” to an agreement on the Siachen issue, the prime minister of the day would be forced to back out by the Indian defence establishment, the Congress Party hardline and opposition leaders.
When the 2006 India-Pakistan Foreign Secretary talks set up a joint mechanism for discussing counter-terrorism issues ended with rumours that Pakistan had made a concession on Siachen, observers had said that the prime minister will be significantly constrained in any part of his agenda with Pakistan in the coming months, especially in the face of significant opposition from within his own party and an emboldened BJP that viewed the joint mechanism as an opportunity to portray the Congress Party as soft on terrorism.
The cable stated that former Indian Ambassador Parthasarthy, who personally dissuaded Rajiv Gandhi from making a similar deal on Siachen in 1989, said this concession does not satisfy India’s underlying concern — that points be agreed to in advance so the Pakistani Army would be unable to simply march back in to the area and take the high peaks around the Siachen glacier that India currently controls. The cable further said:
Parthasarthy further remarked that he had discussed the issue with senior Congress Party members, who have significant sway over Sonia Gandhi and Congress Party politics, and there is “no way in hell” that they would allow India to withdraw under disadvantageous conditions.  He added that the “Prime Minister won’t get away with what he is trying to do.”  He said Musharraf’s book had convinced many in the Indian army that they cannot trust Pakistan, especially when he could blame an invasion of Indian territory on “mujahideen.”
In another cable, Ambassador David Mulford citing various obstacles to an agreement on Siachen wrote about the first obstacle:
Army Chief JJ Singh appears on the front page of the “Indian Express” seemingly fortnightly to tell readers the Army cannot support a withdrawal from Siachen.  Given India’s high degree of civilian control over the armed forces, it is improbable that Gen. Singh could repeatedly make such statements without MoD civilians giving at least tacit approval.  Whether or not this is the case, a Siachen deal is improbable while his — and the Army’s — opposition continues to circulate publicly.
On Tuesday, Pakistan and India ended a 12th round of talks over the Siachen Glacier without a hint of agreement on the modalities of a proposed demilitarisation and other key issues related to their tense standoff.
Pakistan and India decided to meet again at a mutually convenient date in Islamabad. New Delhi insisted that Islamabad must authenticate present troop position of the two sides.
While Pakistan insists on maintaining the pre-1972 troop positions, as agreed in the Simla Agreement, India wants its neighbour to authenticate the Actual Ground Position Line both on the maps as well as on the ground. Siachen is considered the “low-hanging fruit” of the India-Pakistan peace process.

Double Leadership Hit Leaves U.S. Army Scrambling

The U.S. Army's reclamation project to fix its broken acquisition system took a major hit when it lost both Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Army acquisition chief Malcolm O'Neill in the same week, defense analysts said.
THE U.S. ARMY has been weakened by this week’s loss of acquisition chief Malcolm O’Neill, left, and Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. (Staff file photos)
O'Neill caught many by surprise when he told his staff June 1 in an email he would resign for "personal reasons" just more than a year into the job. His resignation came two days after President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Dempsey to take over as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff just one month after he became Army chief.
"There's a very good chance the Army will take a 45-degree turn here in the fact that Dempsey and the acquisition chief are leaving at the same time. I think a lot of the directions that Dempsey put in place at [Training and Doctrine Command] and then continued in his short stint as chief are in question right now," said retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, who worked closely with Dempsey as an outside senior adviser when Dempsey was TRADOC commander.
Dempsey, seemingly not on the president's list to succeed Adm. Mike Mullen since he took over the Army in April, rocketed up to the top job after other potential nominees, namely Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, fell out of favor.
Losing both leaders at a time when a recent Army review of the service's acquisition system said it required "major surgery" will leave the Army looking for direction all over again.
Obama announced his nomination of Gen. Ray Odierno, head of Joint Forces Command, to take over for Dempsey at the same Memorial Day White House news conference. However, many Pentagon insiders and defense analysts struggled to come up with potential successors for O'Neill outside his key deputies, including Marilyn Freeman, deputy assistant secretary for research and technology, and Scott Fish, the Army's chief scientist.
"The silver lining in this might be that O'Neill had a time in place so it's not like there will be no adult supervision. He put together a good leadership team, but it is still a question of who will take over and whether they will follow through on his vision," said Jim Carafano, a defense analyst with the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.
Dempsey's service as the head of TRADOC before taking the Army's top position allowed him to spend three years reviewing the Army from a "big picture" perspective, Barno said. By comparison, Odierno has spent his last assignments either in operational billets leading the war in Iraq or closing Joint Forces Command.
"The guy who really understands this who has been working these requirements as the TRADOC commander and now the Army chief is going to be vaulted into the chairman's position and General Odierno isn't coming from that type of background. He's been out in the operating force and the joint world," Barno said.
Odierno hasn't served in a senior Army-specific billet since 2004, when he spent three months as a special assistant to the Army vice chief of staff. Peter Singer, a defense analyst with the Brookings Institute, is eager to see what Odierno lists as his priorities and how they might match up with Dempsey's.
"There's a potential the Army will lose some momentum as they go through the leadership transition … but you really can't answer the impact until you get a sense of Odierno's priorities and operating style. A very accomplished general and commander, but there are a lot of open questions of what he is going to set as his key priorities in terms of acquisition and how he runs the process."
Although the timing is odd since Dempsey had just released his commander's intent and started to dig his heels into the job, Carafano said it might be even tougher to replace O'Neill since he's had a year in the job.
"O'Neill is a little bit more disruptive to the Army because he was moving out and had some definite ideas. He was strong on using outside advisory boards and his red teams," Carafano said.
O'Neill retired as a lieutenant general after 34 years in the Army that included a stint as director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, now the Missile Defense Agency. After his Army career, he turned to industry, working for Lockheed Martin from 1996 to 2006. More recently, he served as chairman of the board on Army Science and Technology for the National Academies and the National Research Council.
Two sources said he is leaving for a health-related issue; the resignation has nothing to do with his work. The Army would not confirm if a health concern caused his resignation, however, in a recent speech, O'Neill spoke about an injury he sustained in the Vietnam War, which still plagues him today, and serves as motivation for him to help soldiers in today's fight.
"I'm still suffering the consequences of that. If I don't take my medicine every day, it's goodbye," O'Neill said.
O'Neill quickly put his mark on the Army's largest weapon programs, forming a red team to investigate the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle's (GCV) weaknesses. After soliciting bids for the vehicle, the Army withdrew its request for proposals in August 2010, revised the program's requirements to prevent cost from spiraling out of control.
Major questions remain for the program; Army Vice Chief Gen. Peter Chiarelli listed it as the service's second priority behind the Army network. The red teams, which O'Neill formed to look at GCV, questioned the urgency of the need for the vehicle in the next seven years.
"The funds that have migrated from the FCS program were driving the events and activities of the program versus a true capabilities gap," according to a Government Accountabilities Office report on the "Army's ground force modernization initiatives."
Barno said the transition in leadership will force the Army to "take another serious look" at each one of its modernization programs. When the Army looks again at the cost versus the capability the GCV provides, Barno said he's not confident the service will continue with the program.
Dempsey and O'Neill had directed industry to focus its efforts on soldier technology, dismounted operations and the squad. The Army chief wanted the Army to take a bottom-up approach versus the top-down review the service traditionally used when looking at modernization.
O'Neill also worked closely with Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter on the Defense Department's drive to find efficiencies and reduce overhead costs. The Army will have the challenge of balancing the coming reset from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with modernization programs like the GCV while defense spending continues to shrink, Carafano said.
"The cost of resetting the force is going to be huge, so they are going to have to make some really big tradeoffs here," Barno said.
Dempsey seemed to be the perfect fit to usher the Army through this transition set up by his time at TRADOC, Barno said. However, the Army's loss is the Pentagon's gain.
"It's really unfortunate for the Army but great news for the nation because I think Dempsey is a terrific pick," Barno said.

Gates: New Weapons For 'Robust' US Role In Asia

SINGAPORE - Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Saturday vowed the U.S. military would maintain a "robust" presence across Asia backed up with new high-tech weaponry to protect allies and safeguard shipping lanes.
Seeking to reassure Asian allies mindful of China's growing power and Washington's fiscal troubles, Gates told a security conference in Singapore that Washington's commitment to the region would not be scaled back.
Instead, the U.S. military will expand its presence in Southeast Asia, sharing facilities with Australia in the Indian Ocean and deploying new littoral combat ships (LCS) to Singapore, where it has access to naval facilities, he said.
The LCS is a speedy, lighter ship designed to operate in shallow coastal waters.
Gates, who steps down at the end of the month after more than four years as Pentagon chief, said the U.S. military planned to deepen its engagement with countries across the Pacific, with more port calls and training programs.
The U.S. military will be positioned in a way "that maintains our presence in Northeast Asia while enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean," Gates said.
The speech came as countries facing a rising China watch the United States for signs of its long-term security plans in Asia, amid mounting disputes over territorial rights in the potentially resource-rich South China Sea.
"The U.S. position on maritime security remains clear: we have a national interest in freedom of navigation; in unimpeded economic development and commerce; and in respect for international law," Gates said.
Citing investments in new radar-evading aircraft, surveillance drones, warships and space and cyber weapons, Gates said the United Sates is "putting our money where our mouth is with respect to this part of the world - and will continue to do so."
The planned weapons programs represented "capabilities most relevant to preserving the security, sovereignty, and freedom of our allies and partners in the region," he said.
The programs also include maintaining America's nuclear "deterrence" amid continuing concern over North Korea's atomic weapons.
Senior U.S. officers have long pointed to China's military buildup, saying Beijing's pursuit of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles as well as cyber warfare capabilities pose a potential threat to US naval power in the region.
Without naming China, Gates said the new hardware was a response to "the prospect that new and disruptive technologies and weapons could be employed to deny US forces access to key sea routes and lines of communications."
Although the Pentagon's budget would come under growing scrutiny and military spending in some areas would be cut back, Gates predicted that investments in the key "modernization" programs would be left untouched.
"These programs are on track to grow and evolve further in the future, even in the face of new threats abroad and fiscal challenges at home."
This would ensure "that we will continue to meet our commitments as a 21st century Asia-Pacific nation - with appropriate forces, posture, and presence", he said.
Looking back on US policy in Asia since he took over at the Pentagon in 2006, Gates said the military had bolstered ties with old allies, such as Japan and South Korea, as well with new partners, including India and Vietnam.
The speech reflected how Washington has sought to strike a delicate balance between countering a more assertive Chinese military with a bigger presence in the region while seeking to defuse tensions through dialogue and exchanges.
Gates, who held talks with his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie on Friday, said efforts to promote a security dialogue with China had borne fruit and that military relations had "steadily improved in recent months."

Petraeus Preparing for Afghanistan Drawdown

KABUL, Afghanistan - Planning is underway for the initial withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and the details are being closely guarded by the officer overseeing the process, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus.
U.S. ARMY GEN. David Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, speaks June 3 during an interview at his office in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Thomas Brown / Staff)
"The ground-truth is there's one action officer on this effort," Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, said June 3 during an interview at his office inside NATO's headquarters here. "You're looking at him."
Petraeus expects his options will be delivered to the White House before the end of June, around the time he is likely to testify before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on his nomination to become director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. He dismissed recent media reports suggesting the initial drawdown would include between 5,000 and 10,000 troops, saying nobody could have that information because he has not shared it with anyone.
Neither Petraeus' commander's initiatives group nor his executive staff has participated in the development of options for the president, the general said. The effort has taken place in his office, behind his own desk.
"There may be one or two folks on the staff who think they know something about it; they might be deceiving themselves because there are misdirection plays out there," Petraeus said. "I want to assure everybody above me that this is not going to leak, that there will be no kinds of atmospherics as a result of leaks."
Before they're presented to President Obama, Petraeus' plans will be shared only with Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command; Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates and Mullen, he said, will most likely be the ones who take it to the Oval Office.
Petraeus is likely hoping to avoid a repeat of late 2009, when his recommendation for a troop surge in Afghanistan - a proposal meant only for the president - was leaked to the media, fueling pre-decisional speculation for weeks. Upon announcing the surge of 30,000 U.S. troops, Obama made it clear those forces would begin to leave in July 2011.
"What a commander in my position should do is to provide the chain of command and president with options to implement the policy … at a pace determined by conditions on the ground," said Petraeus, who led CENTCOM during deliberations over the troop surge.
The recommendations for the president, Petraeus said, are informed by visits to ground commanders across Afghanistan, including the volatile southern provinces where Marines and soldiers continue to battle Taliban fighters in what used to be their exclusive stronghold.
Important considerations also include the purview of Mattis, whose context is the entire theater, not just Afghanistan, and by Gates and Mullen, who must consider broader global context. At the top is Obama, who faces difficult fiscal challenges and an atmosphere in Congress where there is waning support for the war.
"Every level above me has a broader purview," he said.

Pakistan Raises Annual Defense Spending 11 Percent

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's government jacked up defense spending and government employees' pensions in a new budget June 3 that set a deficit of 4 percent of GDP.
The budget for the fiscal year 2011-2012 starting July 1 came as pressure mounts on Pakistan to launch a military offensive in the restive North Waziristan region, known as the hub of Taliban and Al Qaeda linked militants.
It earmarked 495 billion rupees ($5.7 billion) for defense, an 11 percent increase on the current year.
"We stand by our valiant men, who are laying down their lives to safeguard our country," finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh told parliament. "The country has constantly been suffering because of the existing security situation," but the government was determined to improve the economy and provide security to the people, he said.
More than 4,410 people have been killed across Pakistan in bomb blasts and suicide attacks blamed in Taliban- and Al-Qaeda-linked militants since July 2007.
The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for a string of recent attacks against government security forces and has vowed to launch even larger ones to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden, shot dead in a U.S. raid last month.
The total budget for the next year was fixed at 2,504 billion rupees ($29.1 billion), with a budget deficit of 850 billion rupees ($9.9 billion), or four percent of gross domestic product (GDP), Shaikh said.
The budget also provides rises of up to 20 percent in government employees' pensions and promises to bring at least 2.3 million new taxpayers into the tax net.
Pakistan has long defied Western pressure to end giant tax-dodging in a country where barely 1 percent of the population pays at all, as a corrupt bureaucracy starves energy, health and education of desperately needed funds.
The International Monetary Fund last year halted a $11.3 billion assistance package over a lack of progress on reforms, principally on tax.
In the wake of catastrophic 2010 floods that cost the economy $10 billion, Washington donated hundreds of millions of dollars and demanded that Pakistan's rich, whose lifestyles outstrip many in the West, step up to the plate.
Shaikh said Pakistani exports grew by 28 percent, an unprecedented rate, during the current fiscal year.
"We also hope that our remittances will reach a level of $12 billion by close of this year," he said, adding: "Our foreign currency reserves have reached $17.3 billion."
He said that the government had achieved some macrostability, checked inflation and begun to impact the growth rate.
Local newspaper The News reported this week that Pakistan had decided to launch a "careful and meticulous" military offensive in North Waziristan after a recent visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad.
But Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, the corps commander supervising all military operations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told reporters on June 1, "We will undertake operation in North Waziristan when we want to."

Russian Leader Vows Probe Into Fatal Armory Fire

MOSCOW - More than 20,000 people were evacuated and dozens injured when a fire at a munitions depot in central Russia triggered a succession of explosions and sent a fireball blazing into the sky.
The huge blaze at a military depot storing artillery shells and rockets came after a similar fire late last month, prompting President Dmitry Medvedev to vow that those responsible for the latest "doomsday" accident would face the sack.
Officials battled through the night to put out the blaze at the depot near the village of Pugachyovo in the Volga region of Udmurtia that broke out June 2, minutes before midnight, hurling shrapnel into the air and sending people running for their life.
"Anything that could have exploded did," emergencies ministry spokesman Mikhail Turkov said.
About 60 people sought medical help, including 25 people who were hospitalized - many of them elderly, officials said, adding one man had his finger amputated as a result of the accident.
Two elderly people - a woman and a man - died of heart attacks, said Elena Ivanova, a spokeswoman for the regional health ministry in Udmurtia, declining however to link the deaths to the fire or the explosions themselves.
More than 500 personnel were battling the blaze, along with four planes, three helicopters and robotic equipment, officials said, adding more than 40 tons of water have been dumped over the blaze as of early June 3.
By that time, authorities said they had the fire under control and many people were beginning to return home as doctors were helping local residents who sustained emotional trauma.
"I thought it was thunder. No, looks like it is not thunder. I then hear the base is going up in the air," local villager Galina Morozova said in televised remarks, adding the force of the blast broke windows.
"You really can't put it into words," a visibly shaken witness said.
Explosions at military weapons depots are relatively common in Russia and are often linked to ageing equipment and lax enforcement of safety rules.
Some observers have suspected foul play, noting that corruption in the military is rife and such fires can help hide the illicit sale of munitions on the black market.
Late last month, a similar fire at a munitions depot in the nearby region of Bashkortostan triggered explosions that lasted several days.
Officials could not immediately pinpoint the reason for the fire but a spokesman for the FSB security service in Udmurtia said that a terrorist attack was ruled out.
A granite-faced Medvedev told Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov to conduct an internal investigation and establish who was responsible for the latest accident in the country's armed forces.
"We are having a doomsday for the second time in a row," Medvedev said in televised remarks.
"Two times is already systematic. Put together proposals as to who and how should be held responsible for this," he said, noting that several officials have already been let go due to similar explosions in the past.
Early on June 3, Udmurtia leader Alexander Volkov met local residents, who were evacuated to the nearby villages, saying the government would compensate them for damage sustained in the fire.
Turkov, the emergencies ministry spokesman, said officials had prepared to evacuate about 28,000 but ended up evacuating more than 22,000 people living nearby.
The defense ministry quickly put a lid on the exact quantity of munitions stored at the depot.
"This is confidential information," Moscow-based defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. Turkov said earlier in the day the depot could have contained up to 10,000 rail trucks worth of shells.
The silo also stores a small amount of rockets for Grad rocket launcher systems but they are kept in a concrete shelter and did not explode, Konashenkov said.

France Unveils Plan for New Defense Headquarters

PARIS - French Defense Minister Gérard Longuet on May 31 unveiled a detailed architectural model and plans for the building complex, popularly dubbed the French Pentagon and expected to house 9,300 command and civilian staff in 2014 under a 3.5 billion euro ($5.1 billion) public-private partnership (PPP) contract.
Builder Bouygues led a group that includes Thales, Sodexo and Dalkia to win the PPP contract, initialed by Longuet on May 30, to build and manage the site under a 27-year lease, receiving an annual rent of 130 million euros. The other bidders were Vinci and Eiffage. A bank pool including Natixis, Dexia, Société Générale and BBVA will lend financing.
Architect Nicolas Michelin said he designed the main building as an environmentally friendly system inspired by the lines of stealthy military aircraft.
Defense officials hope the new site will encourage a joint approach in military affairs by bringing together at the Balard site, located in east Paris, the headquarter staff of the services, which are dispersed around the capital. The Direction Générale de l'Armement procurement office will also join the defense staff.
The government retains the Hotel de Brienne, the 18th-century building that served as the headquarters of Gen. Charles de Gaulle when he led the provisional administration on the liberation of Paris in August 1944.

North Korea Threatens Retaliation over Kim Targets

SEOUL - North Korea's military on June 3 threatened retaliation against South Korea unless Seoul punishes troops who used pictures of Pyongyang's ruling dynasty as rifle-range targets.
The South's defense ministry said earlier this week it had ordered the army reservists to discontinue the practice and to use normal targets.
But the North's military general staff called for an apology and stern punishment for those involved.
The North's regular armed forces and reservists would "escalate the practical and overall retaliatory military actions till the puppet authorities have taken measures to punish the prime movers... and make an apology for them," said a military statement on the official news agency.
Several Seoul media outlets published pictures of targets depicting the North's leader Kim Jong-Il, his late father and founding president Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il's youngest son and heir apparent Kim Jong-Un.
"The recent hideous provocation is a never-to-pardoned treason," said the North's statement, which did not elaborate on the threatened retaliation.
It called on the South's "puppet authorities" - a reference to President Lee Myung-Bak's government - to "apologize to the nation for the evil deeds committed by traitor Lee Myung-Bak and the puppet army hooligans and take a responsible step for their prevention."
Cross-border relations have been icy for more than a year, since the South accused the North of sinking one of its warships and imposed trade sanctions.
The North denies involvement in the March 2010 sinking. But it shelled a South Korean border island last November, killing four people including two civilians.
In an abrupt change of tack in January, the North began calling for peace and dialogue. But this week it announced it would no longer deal with Lee's government.
On June 1 it said it had rejected a South Korean proposal to hold a series of three summits designed to ease tensions on the peninsula.
South Korea confirmed it had held a secret meeting with the North in Beijing in May. But it said the main purpose was to try to persuade the North to apologize for the two border incidents and to promise no recurrence.
Seoul says its neighbor must take responsibility for the incidents before there can be any serious peace dialogue.
Some analysts believe the North will not mount further attacks while it is seeking U.S. food aid and preparing for a major political anniversary next year.
But others say its decision to disclose the diplomatic contacts is worrying. Seoul critics cited Lee's alleged double-dealing in seeking summits while publicly maintaining a tough line with Pyongyang.
But U.S. academic Marcus Noland said the disturbing aspect "is not Lee Myung-Bak's alleged hypocrisy but rather North Korea's recklessness.
"One has to assume that this behavior is connected to North Korea's internal political machinations and could augur further provocations in the future," he wrote in a blog posting.
Several U.S. and South Korean officials have warned of heightened uncertainty as Kim puts in place a succession plan involving his son.

Homegrown Radar to Boost India's Air Defenses

NEW DELHI - The Indian Air Force on June 3 will integrate a locally built radar into its Integrated Air Command and Control Systems.
The Arudha medium-power radar will be installed at the Naliya air base in the Indian state of Gujarat, near the Pakistani border, a senior Indian Air Force official said.
The Arudha, built by the state-owned Electronics and Radar Development Establishment, part of the government's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), will improve India's air defense capabilities.
Several of the Air Force's air defense radars are old and need replacement. The service has only 50 percent of the medium-power radars it requires, the Air Force official said, and only 24 percent of the low-level transportable radars it needs.
There is also a shortfall in high-power static radars (HPSR) and mobile radars.
The HPSRs are 3-D radars that cover aerial threats at a height of two kilometers and above and have a range of 450 kilometers. India plans to procure HPSRs directly procured from the overseas market.
Currently, India's air defense system is made up of the Air Defence Ground Environment System, an integrated network of surveillance radars, air defense control centers, air and missile bases and anti-aircraft guns. The system was developed in the early 1970s with equipment purchased from the former Soviet Union. The system is still the mainstay of the country's air defenses, with surveillance radars deployed across India.