North Korea marks anniversary with massive artillery drill

04 May 2017, 11:26 | Isaac Mcdaniel

Fears have risen in recent weeks that North Korea could conduct another nuclear test or long-range missile launch in defiance of United Nations sanctions, perhaps on the Tuesday anniversary of the founding of its military.

The South's trumpeting of progress on setting up the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, comes as high-powered US military assets converge on the Korean Peninsula and as a combative North Korea signals possible nuclear and missile testing.

North Korea marked the day by staging an exercise involving some 300 or 400 long-range artillery pieces that have the range to target the South Korean capital, Seoul, or adjacent areas, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unidentified government source.

At the meeting, army Gen. Pak Yong Sik, North Korea's minister of defense, reiterated Pyongyang's claim that the country is ready to use pre-emptive strikes or any other measures it deems necessary to defend itself against the "U.S. imperialists".

The Chinese state-run media delivered a stern warning against North Korea, saying a sixth nuclear test would deal a serious blow to the Kim Jong-un regime.

Tuesday marks the founding anniversary of North Korea's armed forces.

North Korea has an air base in Wonsan and missiles have also been tested there. It launched a missile one day after the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il Sung on April 15.

We call on North Korea to refrain from provocative, destabilising actions and rhetoric, and to make strategic choice to fulfil its worldwide obligations and commitments and return to serious talks.

Measuring more than 170 meters long, the MI can carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and embark up to 66 special operations personnel.

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In a statement from the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, South Korea said it was monitoring the situation and remained "firmly prepared".

In Tokyo, US representative for North Korea policy Joseph Yun was meeting his Japanese counterpart Kenji Kanasugi and Kim Hong-kyun of South Korea.

China, North Korea's sole major ally which nevertheless objects to its weapons development, has repeatedly called for calm, and its envoy for Korean affairs, Wu Dawei, was in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Trump spoke by phone with both the Japanese and Chinese leaders Monday. "If there is a partner Trump needs to discuss with foremost over the North Korea problem, it's not Xi Jinping or Shinzo Abe, but the leader of South Korea".

"This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not", Trump said Monday at a lunch for ambassadors of countries who sit on the Security Council.

The move is widely seen as a show of force by the Trump administration as it seeks to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

There were fears that the nation would celebrate the military milestone by testing a nuclear weapon or firing a missile, but this did not come to pass. One aspect of China's hardline stance is illustrated by the fact that China's state-run newspaper, The Global Times, declared on April. 22 that Beijing would engage in deterrence through diplomatic means if the U.S. launched a surgical strike on North Korea's nuclear facilities, but that a Chinese military intervention would be unnecessary. It also past year launched a long-range rocket that delivered a satellite into orbit, which Washington, Seoul and others saw as a banned test of missile technology.

Xi's phone call with Trump came amid signs Pyongyang could soon conduct its sixth nuclear test explosion since 2006, or the latest in a rapid series of missile tests, further advancing its ambitions of developing a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the USA mainland. Trump has repeatedly promised that China will earn a better trade deal with the USA if it helps to exert pressure on its allied neighboring nation.



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