Former ‘400 Mawozo’ hostages describe ordeal as Haiti gang demands $17 million ransom for kidnapped missionaries

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(NEW YORK) — Survivors of a previous kidnapping by the notorious Haitian gang 400 Mawozo have revealed details about what life was like as a hostage, with the group currently demanding a $17 million ransom to set free 16 Americans and one Canadian they have captive.

The group of missionaries affiliated with Christian Aid Ministries were kidnapped at a checkpoint in the capital of Port-au-Prince on Saturday, officials told ABC News, and the FBI, State Department and other U.S. agencies have sent a team to the country to secure their safe release. A senior Haitian police official involved in the efforts to free the Americans told ABC News that the kidnappers have demanded a ransom of $1 million per person.

Christian Aid Ministries, based in Ohio, revealed more details about the hostages on Tuesday, saying that the adults held captive were between the ages of 18 and 48, while there were also five children, the youngest of whom is 8 months old.

In Haiti, a majority Catholic country, 400 Mawozo gang members are known for their brutal tactics and targeting of clerical groups. Gédéon Jean, the director of Haiti’s Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, told the Washington Post that the gang was responsible for the most abductions.

Haiti has the highest kidnapping rate per capita in the world, and 400 Mawozo members are believed to have been responsible for kidnapping ten French missionaries in April of this year, who were released after 20 days. In interviews with ABC News, two survivors recounted their experience and offered their prayers for the current hostages.

Father Jean Millien, who was among the group of missionaries and is still based in Haiti, told ABC News that he was hopeful the hostages would be set free.

“The message I have for them is not to be impatient,” he said. “I do think that one day all of them will be free.”

And another of the survivors from the April kidnapping, Sister Agnes Bordeau, 81, of the Sisters of Providence, who has since returned to France, shared details with ABC News about what life is like under hostage conditions. They were kidnapped after being given repeated warnings from the French Embassy in Haiti about the dangers of operating in the country.

After they were kidnapped by the armed gunmen, Bordeau said that the group changed locations three times; their captors able to evade the authorities in a country that is roughly the same size as the state of Maryland.

“We were sleeping on cardboard outdoors in the middle of the forest,” Bordeau told ABC News. “Five days outdoors without moving. Of course, if we needed to go to the restrooms we had to ask permission and we were followed by an armed guard. [When we were moved inside] we were afraid for our lives as the room was very dirty and it was very hot. Only one person could stand or sit.”

In the forest they experienced perhaps the most terrifying event of their ordeal — when they suspected their captors were digging makeshift graves.

“At some point, I could hear noises of people digging and I asked a priest what it was about and he told me very peacefully that the ang was preparing for us a pauper’s grave,” she said. “They tied our hands, one of the gang members [ripped] a priest’s robe to make strips to blindfold us altogether, but it did not last for a very long time.”

Despite the harrowing ordeal, during which they were only fed one meal a day, Bordeau said, the missionaries eventually engaged in dialogue with their captors, even though all of their possessions — with the exception of their personal bibles, were stolen.

They survived, she said, through their collective faith.

“We supported each other, we took care of each other, we paid attention to our own words as well,” she said. “We were never discouraged and we had very deep moments of prayers… And personally I can say I could really feel the presence of God in the middle of us.”

After 20 days of captivity, Bordeau said they were abruptly released in the middle of the night. It is unknown whether or not a ransom was paid.

“When we were released, the big chief of the gang asked us to pray for them,” she said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has vowed that the U.S. will do all it can to secure the release of the hostages.

“Gangs dominate many parts of Port-au-Prince and other parts of Haiti, the national police can’t even operate in many of these areas,” Blinken said, noting the practical difficulties of life on the ground.

ABC News’ Conor Finnegan and Marcus Moore contributed to this report

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Parkland shooter addresses court as he pleads guilty in high school massacre

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(PARKLAND, Fla.) — Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty Wednesday to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for killing 17 and injuring 17 others in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

Cruz replied “guilty” when Judge Elizabeth Scherer asked how he wanted to plea to the slaying or wounding of each victim. Parents of the slain students watched from the courtroom and wiped tears from their eyes.

Cruz said in court, “I am very sorry for what I did and I have to live with it every day. … It brings me nightmares and I can’t live with myself sometimes.”

Cruz said he believes the victims should be the ones to decide whether he gets the death penalty.

A jury will decide if Cruz, 23, will get the death penalty or life in prison.

On Feb. 14, 2018, Cruz, then 19, gunned down 14 students and three staff members at his former school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He was taken into custody that day.

Manuel Oliver, father of 17-year-old victim Joaquin Oliver, told ABC News Live Friday, “I can’t wait for this to be over so I can move on, at least without the weight of not knowing what’s going to happen to this person.”

Last week Cruz pleaded guilty to charges in connection to his attack on a jail guard in 2018.

Jury selection for the penalty phase will begin on Jan. 4.

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CNN’s John King say he hopes revealing his MS diagnosis helps people do ‘easy things’ to protect against COVID-19

Good Morning America

(NEW YORK) — One day after making a surprise revelation on live television that he has multiple sclerosis , CNN anchor John King said he hopes his openness inspires people to take precautions against COVID-19 seriously.

“I’m not supposed to be part of the story, I’m supposed to cover stories,” King said Wednesday on “Good Morning America, adding, “If my personal experience can help anybody or help people understand, again, that the person next to you, you may not know, on the subway, or on the bus, in a coffee shop might need your help and you can do a couple easy things to make them feel safer, if I can help with that, then so be it.”

The “Inside Politics” host opened up about his own MS battle Tuesday during a segment in which COVID-19 vaccine mandates were discussed, following the death of former secretary of state Colin Powell, who died Monday morning due to complications from COVID-19.

Powell, who was fully vaccinated, was being treated for multiple myeloma, which compromises the immune system. He had also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, according to his spokesperson.

“I’m going to share a secret I have never spoken before. I am immunocompromised,” King said on his show. “I have multiple sclerosis. So I am grateful you are all vaccinated. I am grateful my employer says all of these amazing people who work on the floor, who came in here in the last 18 months when we are doing this, are vaccinated now that we have vaccines. I worry about bringing it home to my 10-year-old son who can’t get a vaccine. I don’t like the government telling me what to do. I don’t like my boss telling me what to do. In this case, it’s important.”

King, 58, who is CNN’s chief national correspondent, told “GMA” that he had not planned to reveal his MS diagnosis live on-air, but felt compelled in order to help combat what he called “reckless and dangerous” rhetoric around COVID-19 vaccines and other safety measures.

“We should be willing to do hard things to help other people,” he said. “Rolling up your sleeves and getting a safe vaccine is easy. Putting on a mask in a crowded place is easy. So why can’t we do the easy things?”

“These steps are easy and they could help a friend or a neighbor or a stranger get through the day,” King added.

Currently, just 66.8% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

King said he has taken extra safety precautions himself during the pandemic, for his own health but also to protect his family, including his 10-year-old son, who is currently too young to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Studies have shown vaccinated individuals are significantly less likely to spread coronavirus to family members within a household, National Institutes of Health director Frances Collins wrote in a blog post Tuesday on the safety of the vaccines.

In addition to being fully vaccinated, the CNN anchor said he also received a vaccine booster shot.

“I don’t like being told what to do. I don’t want my employer telling me you have to get a vaccine. I don’t want the government telling me I have to do things, but this is bigger than that,” he said. “Moments in American history when we’re all challenged, when we’re all at risk, we’re supposed to come together and set the politics stuff aside and just love thy neighbor, protect thy neighbor.”

King said he has relapsing-remitting MS, which is the most common disease course, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

He said he takes medication to slow the progression of the disease and considers himself “lucky,” but still faces days where the MS is “very frustrating.”

“Today I’m having a problem with my hands. I have not been able to really have full sensation in my legs since late in the Clinton administration,” he said, noting that his MS diagnosis came several years later. “There are some days this knocks me on my you know what, there are other days it’s just a little nagging.”

“But it has made me stronger. I hope, I certainly hope it has made me a better person,” King continued. “And it’s made me aware, again, that a lot of these symptoms, a lot of the stress people are going through is hidden. You cannot see it, but we should just be aware that it’s out there.”

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Relief, eager anticipation for many Americans ahead of FDA decision on booster shots

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(NEW YORK) — For Mitchell Kronenberg, answers on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can’t come soon enough.

A 42-year-old dad living outside Charlotte, North Carolina, Kronenberg enrolled in a clinical trial for the single-dose vaccine and got his shot last January. Since then, he’s been patiently waiting for U.S. federal regulators to tell him what to do next to stay safe: Should he get another Johnson & Johnson shot? Switch to Moderna or Pfizer? Is his single-shot vaccination enough to protect him from spreading the virus to his unvaccinated 4-year-old son?

“Why is it taking so long? You have people out on a ledge out here,” he said of the process.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to decide as early as Wednesday whether the 15 million Americans who got the single-dose J&J shot by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies should get a second dose. The decision comes after studies suggested effectiveness against moderate and severe symptoms climbed from 70% with one dose to 94% with two doses.

Also anticipated is a decision on possible third booster shots for Moderna recipients and whether Americans can mix vaccine brands when getting a booster.

With a decision expected soon, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention planned to meet Thursday to offer the public a final recommendation.

Typically a wonky endeavor ignored by most Americans, the FDA and CDC regulatory process is now being closely followed by millions of Americans. People describe joining private Facebook groups to swap the latest research and repeatedly getting their antibody levels checked, even if experts warn it’s an incomplete measure of a person’s immunity.

Some have even opted to mix booster shots on their own even without the federal government’s blessing.

“Every day, I was researching, Googling, reading everything I could get my hands on,” said Lynne Conway, a 59-year-old development officer for an animal shelter in Ithica, New York.

Conway said she experienced mild heart inflammation following her first dose of Moderna last March. After ruling out other causes, her doctor recommended she get the J&J so she can be fully protected against COVID-19. She got that shot in August, despite there being no official green light from regulators to mix shots in such a way.

“The relief of finally deciding to get the (J&J) vaccine, and have it over with, was monumental,” she said.

J&J recipients are among those who expressed being most on edge emotionally, with the 70% effectiveness after one shot — lower than the two doses of Pfizer or Moderna.

Jadzia Pierce, who lives outside of Washington, D.C., said she was relieved regulators were inching toward a decision. In her early 30s, Pierce isn’t at serious risk of major complications from COVID-19.

But she also would like to visit higher-risk relatives this holiday season and to know she’s not at risk of infecting them.

“Even if the answer is (that it puts) other people around at risk, then I guess I just won’t go home,” she said. “I just feel like safety is the most important thing at this point and that’s really all that matters to me.”

J&J declined to comment for this article, citing pending action by regulators. But last Friday, after a meeting of FDA advisors, a top company official told ABC News the J&J vaccine likely protects people by triggering the protection of a person’s T-cells, which is harder to measure than antibodies.

J&J’s “biggest, most impressive components are T-cells, which contribute to both efficacy and durability of our vaccine,” said Mathai Mammen, global head of R&D at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

For its part, the FDA says its staff is working around the clock to comb through technical data. The CDC too has to hear from its own advisory panel before making a decision.

Kronenberg, who has to travel for work as a director for a medical device company, said he still worries about spreading the virus to his son. He says he understands wanting to get it right but wishes the various agencies could get in a room together and hash it out immediately, rather convene separate meetings and reviews that can drag on for weeks.

Pierce, also in limbo having received the J&J, said she’s torn on whether to be frustrated with the regulatory bureaucracy.

“I’m trying to be patient. I do realize that this stuff takes time, and I don’t want to be following advice that is too rushed and not complete,” she said.

ABC News’ Sony Salzman contributed to this report.

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Boy is cancer-free 2 years after viral photo

Kaitlin Burge/Facebook

(DALLAS) — After two years of birthdays, holidays and chemotherapy treatments, Beckett Burge was able to celebrate the biggest milestone of all — being officially cancer-free.

Beckett was only 4 years old when he was diagnosed with pre-B acute lymphoblastic leukemia on April 25, 2018.

He began chemotherapy and was often sick following treatment. With his older sister Aubrey there to comfort him, their mother, Kaitlin Burge, snapped a photo that would go viral.

“One thing they don’t tell you about childhood cancer is that it affects the entire family,” Kaitlin Burge said in 2018. The family also keeps a Facebook page called “Beckett Strong,” where they keep everyone updated on Beckett’s recovery.

On Oct. 15, Beckett finished treatment at Children’s Medical Center Plano in Texas.

“We are excited to say the least,” said Kaitlin Burge. “It has been a long journey. Aubrey has been a great trooper.”

Beckett said he couldn’t have done it without his big sister by his side.

“She always stands up for me whenever I had cancer,” said Beckett.

Now back in school and enjoying little league baseball, Beckett and his family shared a message of hope with “World News Tonight.”

“We just want to say that we’re super excited,” said Kaitlin Burge. “Any other families that are out there going through cancer with their kids and their own family members, we just want to say, ‘Keep up the fight.'”

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel” she added. “Keep your head up. Take it one day at a time.”

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As White House announces vaccine plan for kids 5-11, states prepare for complex rollout

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(NEW YORK) — With wind chill already dragging temperatures down to the low 30s in Anchorage, Alaska, nurse manager Deyana Thayer has her insulated snow gear ready to go as soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is finally available for younger children — since her team will brave the elements to administer the shot in drive-thru clinics that make it easier for kids to get it in the warm comfort of their family’s’ car.

Though regulatory bodies are still weeks away from green-lighting a vaccine for children as young as five, meticulous planning and coordination between state and federal health officials has already been underway for weeks to stand up the complex nationwide launch.

“Quite a few parents are waiting on pins and needles,” Thayer said.

The White House on Wednesday announced its plan to distribute vaccine to cover the some 28 million children ages 5-11 if authorized, including a national public education campaign to “reach parents and guardians with accurate and culturally-responsive information about the vaccine and the risks that COVID-19 poses to children.”

The administration is “eagerly awaiting” federal regulators’ review, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told reporters, and have “a lot of reasons to be hopeful” about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

“We need everyone on board for the work ahead of us, because every parent should have the information and tools that they need to help keep their kids safe and to help protect the kids under five who can’t get vaccinated yet,” Murthy said.

In a new operational planning guide sent to state health officials and obtained by ABC News, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises jurisdictions should be “ready to vaccinate” the newly eligible group, following Food and Drug Administration and CDC signoff.

CDC advises states to request their pediatric doses in advance — even before the FDA advisory panel meets to debate whether to move ahead — in hopes of smoothing the way for an eventual “manageable and equitable launch.”

Those “pre-orders” are allowed to begin Wednesday.

“This is as much of a logistical puzzle as it is a communication or a scientific one,” Dr. Nirav Shah, President of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and director of the Maine CDC said. “Make no mistake, this is an all hands on deck situation.”

To prioritize the “increased logistics needed” during initial rollout, the government is preparing to temporarily halt shipments of adult Pfizer doses during the first week of the pediatric launch, according to planning documents. While paused, adult doses’ availability still should not be impacted.

An imminent vaccine for kids follows a summer where pediatric COVID infections soared — upping the ante on protecting tender ages from the pandemic’s worst, and additionally stopping children from passing the virus to other vulnerable people.

“There will be a lot of pent up demand,” Shah said.

The FDA and CDC must sign off before shots to kids are given; key meetings with independent advisers are set for late October and the first week of November.

Once greenlighted, the pediatric doses will be sent to thousands of sites across the country, including more than 25,000 pediatricians’ offices, more than 100 children’s hospitals, tens of thousands of pharmacies, and hundreds of school and community- based clinics, the White House announced Wednesday.

Though the White House has purchased 65 million Pfizer pediatric vaccine doses — more than enough to fully vaccine all children ages 5-11 in America — the first launch will dole doses out in waves based on states’ eligible population of kids. Shipments can recalibrate based on shifting demand.

Within days, more than 15 millions of doses are set to begin distribution across the country: roughly 10 million allocated to states, five million to pharmacies, and approximately 265,000 for other federal health agencies, three sources familiar with the rollout said, with a focus on sites already with the infrastructure in place.

“Parents want to get the vaccine in a place where they trust, and their child is comfortable,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers.

But pediatricians cannot shoulder the rollout alone, Shah and Hannan said.

Combatting not only the pandemic, they’re also giving seasonal flu shots and other vaccinations for the same age group — like Measles Mumps and Rubella, Chickenpox and HPV, all are also typically given to kids within the five to 11 range, but which have different storage requirements from the COVID vaccine.

Vaccinators must now also juggle two different COVID vaccine formulas: a full dose for older adolescents and adults — and one third of that dose one for younger children.

To troubleshoot any ensuing confusion, federal health officials are outlining a new color-coded cap system for each formulation of the vaccine, though still “preliminary.” Purple-capped vials will contain doses for adult and older adolescents, a chart offered to states said; orange-capped vials will contain doses for kids aged 5-11.

In New York, the state’s largest healthcare provider Northwell Health is considering colored bracelets to help coordinate which dose goes to which child, division chief of general pediatrics at Cohen’s Medical Center Dr. Sophia Jan said.

Even with “sufficient” supply, as the administration has assured, distribution could pose a challenge in some rural areas, where the population of eligible kids may be more spread out across many miles, Hannan said.

“The logistical challenge will be matching everyone up, matching the vaccine with a vaccinator and then getting the word to parents to make all those pieces come together,” Shah said.

Schools offer an attractive locus to meet kids where they’re at, and some jurisdictions plan to use them as a “mainstay” of the pediatric rollout, Shah said, including in Maine.

Columbus Ohio health officials are looking at holding after-school and weekend clinics in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and area schools, public health spokesperson Kelli Newman said.

New York’s Northwell plans to deploy staff specifically trained to work with young children and children with special needs, partnering with schools and places of worship for further community engagement, Jan said.

That outreach will be a crucial piece of the puzzle.

“Making sure that folks have the information, that it’s accurate, that it’s timely — that’s going to be challenge number one, two three,” Shah said.

The CDC has already released promotional materials in English and Spanish offering guidance on how to talk with parents about the shot.

In Maine, health officials are hoping to run ads timed with authorization, focused on parents’ education about the shot’s safety and protection against the virus.

“We want to almost preserve the bandwidth of pediatricians to contend with and work with and educate parents who are extremely hesitant,” Shah said.

State health officials expect “more questions” than ever before with the pediatric rollout, Shah said — and they’re bent on being ready to answer them with good information.

“It’s understandable because of what’s at stake,” he said.

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Johnson & Johnson looking to bankruptcy to resolve 40,000 baby powder cancer suits

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(NEW YORK) — Citing what it calls an “unrelenting assault” by greedy lawyers, Johnson & Johnson is hoping to use the bankruptcy process to dispose of 40,000 lawsuits that claim its baby powder products caused cancer.

A J&J subsidiary created to hold the liabilities from the litigation announced last week it was filing for chapter 11 protection.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the first in the case, the judge is expected to hear from J&J why bankruptcy is the best method to resolve the lawsuits and from critics who called the move “an unconscionable abuse of the legal system.”

“There are countless Americans suffering from cancer, or mourning the death of a loved one, because of the toxic baby powder that Johnson & Johnson put on the market that has made it one of the most profitable pharmaceutical corporations in the world. Their conduct and now bankruptcy gimmick is as despicable as it is brazen,” Linda Lipsen, of the American Association for Justice, an advocacy group pushing for change in bankruptcy laws, said in a statement.

The company has denied its signature Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc-based products contained asbestos and caused cancer, as alleged by tens of thousands of plaintiffs. J&J has spent nearly $1 billion defending itself, according to a court filing.

“Debtor continues to stand behind the safety of its cosmetic talc and does not believe the claims have merit,” J&J said in a court filing. “The unfortunate reality is that this filing is necessitated by an unrelenting assault by the plaintiff trial bar, premised on the false allegations that the Debtor’s 100+ year old talc products contain asbestos and cause cancer.”

The company stopped selling Baby Powder in the United States and Canada in May 2020.

“Johnson’s Baby Powder has been a staple for hundreds of millions of people for over 125 years. If claimants’ allegations were correct that the product causes disease, there should have been long ago an epidemic clearly attributed to the use of the product. That is not the case,” the filing said.

Johnson & Johnson has put $2 billion into a settlement fund to pay the talc claims even though the company said “$2 billion is substantially in excess of any liability the Debtor should have.”

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COVID-19 updates: FDA could authorize Moderna, J&J booster shots Wednesday

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(NEW YORK) — The United States has been facing a COVID-19 surge as the more contagious delta variant continues to spread.

More than 728,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 while over 4.9 million people have died from the disease worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 66.8% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the CDC.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Oct 20, 8:23 am
FDA could authorize Moderna, J&J booster shots Wednesday

The FDA could authorize Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots for some populations as soon as Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the CDC independent advisory committee is meeting Wednesday to discuss vaccines in general. The committee is expected to debate Moderna and Johnson & Johnson on Thursday, discussing who boosters should be recommended for and if mixing and matching vaccines should be permitted.

A non-binding vote is expected at the end of Thursday.

The CDC director is expected to make the final recommendations shortly after the vote, which could come as soon as Thursday night or Friday morning.

Oct 20, 8:08 am
NYC to mandate vaccine for municipal workers

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all municipal workers.

The mandate is expected to include all employees from sanitation workers to office workers and will require some 161,000 workers to have their first dose by Oct. 29.

Municipal employees who do not get vaccinated will be placed on unpaid leave, and their future employment will be resolved in negotiations with individual labor unions.

Correction officers will face a later deadline of Dec. 1.

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China’s reported hypersonic weapon test raises security concerns

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(NEW YORK) — Reports that China may have tested a new hypersonic weapon have grabbed the world’s attention and divided national security experts about its strategic significance and whether the U.S. was falling behind in a new arms race.

But it also raised basic questions about the new technology, what it all means, and what it is that China may have tested.

“The U.S. does not currently have the ability to even track this weapon, much less defeat it,” said Steve Ganyard, a retired Marine colonel and ABC News contributor.

On Monday, China’s foreign ministry denied a Financial Times report that it had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile and instead claimed that it had conducted a “routine test” of a reusable space vehicle.

The newspaper cited five American officials who said China had launched a long-range rocket that deployed a hypersonic glide vehicle that circled the earth in a low orbit before returning to a target area in China, missing it by two dozen miles. ABC News has not independently confirmed the report.

The development raised the possibility of a new arms race for a concept and technology that few people have even heard of.

The idea is that gliders fitted atop ballistic missiles use the rocket’s force to achieve hypersonic speeds, more than five times the speed of sound, as they glide and maneuver through the atmosphere for longer distances than ballistic missiles.

It is believed that because the gliders travel at lower altitudes than a warhead launched from an ICBM, current early warning systems would have a hard time tracking them as they head toward their targets.

They are also hard to track because the glide vehicles are maneuverable in the atmosphere, unlike ballistic warheads that follow a fixed trajectory, meaning they could weave their way around ground-based interceptor missile systems.

The U.S. has been developing its own hypersonic weapons programs, but both Russia and China have claimed technological advances that they say have made their programs already operational.

But China’s test launch would be a significant step forward because a glider was placed into a low earth orbit and then reentered the atmosphere as it headed towards a target at hypersonic speed.

“What China tested was an orbital bombardment system,” said Jeffrey Lewis, with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “The glider entered orbit and had to be brought back down with a de-orbit burn. It’s not clear how much gliding it actually did.”

Either way, the possibility of a new Chinese glider capability from space is raising concerns, particularly if it is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and able to evade current missile defense systems.

“It will give the Chinese the ability to conduct a nuclear strike anywhere in the world without warning,” said Ganyard.

“They now have a weapon that we don’t have, we can’t defend against, we can’t even see. So, we are at a strategic disadvantage,” he said. “And it is probably the first time since the end of World War Two, maybe 1945-46, that the U.S. has been at a strategic disadvantage to any other country. We are behind, and the Chinese have the edge.”

Taylor Fravel, the Director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, acknowledges that the new Chinese capability “does expose the limits of the U.S. missile defense system” designed to counter ballistic missiles from North Korea and Iran,” but he does not see a new Chinese glide vehicle as destabilizing.

“Given the continued large gap in warhead stockpiles, whereby China possess only a fraction of those of the U.S. this particular test should not upset the U.S.-China nuclear balance or be destabilizing in that way,” he told ABC News.

“However, it underscores China’s determination to strengthen its deterrent, especially as amid the steep decline in U.S.-China relations and long-standing concerns about missile defense,” he added.

A nuclear military power since the 1960s, China is believed to maintain a small stockpile of at least 250 nuclear warheads, as well as a modest launch capability housed in dozens of missile silos.

Meanwhile, the United States has declared a stockpile of 3,750 warheads capable of being deployed by hundreds of land-based and sea-launched missiles and a strategic bomber fleet.

But recent open-sourced satellite images indicate that China is constructing more than 200 additional missile silos, an indication that it may be expanding its nuclear weapons capability.

In an interview with Stars and Stripes Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, declined to confirm the details of the Financial Times report but said “It almost seems like we can’t go through a month without some new revelation coming about China.”

“I am not surprised at reports like this. I won’t be surprised when another report comes next month,” he said, adding, the “breathtaking expansion of strategic and nuclear capabilities” means “China can now execute any possible nuclear employment strategy.”

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North Korea fires possible ballistic missile, eighth test this year

(File photo) – Alexyz3d/iStock

(SEOUL, South Korea) — North Korea fired a possible submarine-launched ballistic missile off the East Coast Tuesday morning, according to the neighboring countries South Korea and Japan, marking the eighth missile test-fire this year alone.

“Our military detected a missile launch eastward from a site in the vicinity of Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province around 10:17 a.m.,” South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff, General Won In-choul, told reporters.

The unidentified ballistic missile allegedly launched from a submarine and flew 370 miles at an altitude of 37 miles, according to South Korea’s military.

“It is likely a new mini-SLBM that North Korea showcased last week at an arms exhibition,” Shin Beom-chul, director of the Center for Diplomacy and Security at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, told ABC News.

Another analyst told ABC News that Kim Jong Un is developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles in order to prepare a more survivable nuclear deterrent able to blackmail his neighbors and the United States.

“North Korea cannot politically afford appearing to fall behind in a regional arms race with its southern neighbor,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, told ABC News.

Easley said that although the North Korean missile launch timing is largely driven by a technical schedule for when tests are ready and useful, there’s also a political factor.

“Pyongyang is celebrating the ruling party’s founding and looking to boost national morale after harsh pandemic lockdowns. And the Kim regime likely wants to one-up South Korean missile tests, at least in Pyongyang’s propaganda,” Easley said.

The same day, the intelligence chiefs of South Korea, the United States and Japan held a closed-door trilateral meeting in Seoul to discuss the pending issues in the Korean peninsula, such as the security situation, according to South Korea’s National Intelligence.

Meanwhile in Washington, South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy Noh Kyu-duk discussed North Korea’s missile launch over the phone with the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim. Noh happened to be in Washington for the meeting to discuss ways to bring the North back to the negotiating table the day before.

North Korea’s missile launch comes only two weeks after Pyongyang made a conditional peace offer to Seoul on reconnecting the military hotline. For Seoul, it was a symbolic gesture that their relations could see an improvement.

As Pyongyang raised international concern by firing yet another missile just 19 days after the latest missile test, South Korea’s presidential office held a presidential National Security Council right after the missile launch.

“The council members expressed deep regret that North Korea’s launch occurred while active consultations are underway with related countries like the United States to advance the Korean Peninsula peace process,” South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in an official statement.

North Korea’s last test-fire of an SLBM was in October 2019.

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