North Korea celebrates 85th anniversary of Korean People's Army

(April 21)South Korea says it is on heightened alert ahead of the 85th anniversary of the Korean People's Army in North Korea. They are also concerned about a possible new nuclear test by Kim Jong-un.

The celebration comes as major military drills in the North end according to South Korea's Unification spokesperson KLee Duk-haeng. There have also been joint military exercises in the south with the United States. The North regularly criticizes these as a prelude to invasion. The exercises this year actually do mimic such an invasion. Duk-haeng said: "It is a situation where a lot of exercise equipment is amassed in North Korea and also a lot of strategic assets are situated on the Korean peninsula because of the South Korea-US military drills. We are closely watching the situation and will not be letting our guards down."
North Korea is on "maximum alert" after recent threats by the U.S. to take unilateral action if China is unable to reign in the North. U.S. officials claim there is a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers in the border area. However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry denied that bombers were on any heightened state of alert. A Kremlin spokesperson declined to make any comments on reports that Russia is rushing both troops and military hardware to its narrow border with North Korea in the extreme north-east of the country. US and South Korean officials are worried that Kim Jong-un will understake another nuclear test even after being warned not to by the US and China. The top envoys from the U.S., South Korea, and Japan are to meet tomorrow to "discuss plans to rein in North Korea's high-strength provocation, to maximize pressure on the North, and to ensure China's constructive role in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue." Notice that there is never any talk of the U.S. having direct talks with the North. US President Trump said that if China wants to solve the North Korean problem it will. North Korea may not be that easy to convince without moves that could be risky for the Chinese. Trump said that China is the economic lifeline to the North. This may be true but it is not clear what the North Korean response might be if the lifeline is cut. It is not clear that China wants to find out either.
An official Chinese newspaper expressed optimism about persuading the North to cease its nuclear programme diplomatically now that even Donald Trump said he wanted a peaceful solution. However, he also said that if China did not succeed he would act unilaterally to deal with the situation. A China Daily editorial said: "Beijing has demonstrated due enthusiasm for Washington's new-found interest in a diplomatic solution and willingness to work more closely with it." Last year, North Korea carried out two nuclear weapons tests. It has carried out numerous tests of ballistic missiles.
Cheong Seong-chang a senior research fellow at the Sejong Instituted near Seoul said: "Without crossing the red line such as a nuclear test or a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, until the April 25 anniversary of the Korean People's Army, North Korea is expected to continue to launch mid-range missiles." The joint U.S. South Korean military exercises are to finish the end of this month.
The UN Security Council strongly condemned North Korea's latest missile test which is reported to have failed. The Council threatened to impose new sanctions against North Korea for its "highly destabilizing behavior". Notice that U.S. actions such as the war games, deploying the THAAD missile system and an aircraft carrier armada are not destabilising behavior. The Council unanimously demanded that the North conduct no further nuclear tests and claimed that its "illegal missile activities" greatly increased tension in the region and beyond. The South Koreans appear more relaxed about the situation than those in the US. They are no doubt hoping that the new president to be elected soon will take a less confrontational approach to relations with the North and bring back some degree of normalization in relations between the two countries.


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