North Korea 'ready for nuclear attack' amid show of force

Carla Harmon
April 18, 2017

Its army vowed yesterday a "merciless" response to any U.S. provocation but diplomats in Pyongyang are more sanguine, pointing out that the North raises its rhetoric every spring, when Washington and Seoul hold annual joint exercises that it views as preparations for invasion.

Rows of military bands and goose-stepping and sword-wielding soldiers marched through Pyongyang's main Kim Il-sung square for the "Day of the Sun" celebrations, as a black-suited Kim Jong-un watched.

The festivities on Saturday, celebrating the 105th birthday of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un's grandfather, took place amid concerns that North Korea is possibly preparing for its sixth nuclear test or a significant rocket launch, such as its first flight test of an ICBM.

China's national carrier, Air China, will suspend flights between Beijing and North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, from Monday amid tensions on the Korean Peninsula involving the United States, Chinese state media say.

A USA military official, who requested anonymity to discuss planning, said the United States doesn't intend to use military force against North Korea in response to either a nuclear test or a missile launch.

China also has grown increasingly frustrated with the refusal of Kim Jong Un's regime to heed its admonitions, and in February cut off imports of North Korean coal that provide Pyongyang with a crucial source of foreign currency.

Already strained relations between the United States and North Korea took a turn for the worse this week as Donald Trump took to Twitter to say the USA would "solve the problem" of North Korea.

Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the USA -based Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California said North Korea showed two new kinds of ICBM enclosed in canister launchers mounted on the back of trucks. Now attention turns to the next important date in North Korea's calendar in ten days time: the 85th anniversary of the founding of the military.

Among the hardware on display appeared to be new intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

According to the weapons analysts, some of the missiles on display were new types of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Analysts say commercial satellite images from recent weeks indicate increased activity around North Korea's nuclear test site.

The official said plans could change in the unlikely event a North Korean missile targets South Korea, Japan or USA territory.

Pyongyang's rogue atomic ambitions have come into sharp focus in recent weeks, with United States President Donald Trump vowing a tough stance against the North and threatening unilateral action if China failed to help curb its neighbour's nuclear programme.

As for the Trump administration's policy, the United States officials emphasised that no engagement of North Korea is currently taking place, and that the focus now was on pressure.

It has carried out five nuclear tests - two of them a year ago - and multiple missile launches, one of which saw three rockets come down in waters provocatively close to Japan last month.

SCHIMTZ: Definitely. You know, the United States, as you mentioned, ordered an aircraft carrier - the Carl Vinson - and several other warships to the Korean Peninsula and so has Japan.

US retaliatory strikes earlier this month against Syria over a chemical weapons attack on civilians, coupled with Trump's dispatching of what he called an "armada" of ships to the region, touched off fears in South Korea that the United States was preparing for military action against the North.

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