North Korea celebrated the founding of the nation’s military on Tuesday with live fire exercises and a new round of aggressive rhetoric, just as the USS Michigan, an American nuclear submarine, docked in South Korea as a part of an international show of force directed at the North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un.
The USS Michigan’s arrival isn’t the last American vessel to arrive in the area this week, as the publicly delayed USS Carl Vinson strike group is also expected to arrive in the waters near the Korean peninsula this week with two Japanese Maritime Defense Force destroyers in tow.
Rumors have swirled in the international community that Tuesday’s celebration would see a sixth atomic bomb test from the reclusive regime, or another ballistic missile launch as a part of ongoing testing within their medium range missile program, but such tests pose the possibility for failure, as was the case during their Day of the Sun celebration a few weeks ago that culminated in a missile exploding just seconds after launch. Perhaps due to international pressures, or as part of an effort to avoid such a public embarrassment on yet another North Korean holiday, Kim Jong Un’s regime instead chose to conduct long-range artillery drills.
According to reports from the South Korean military, a “large number” of long-range artillery units were deployed to the region on Wonsan on the nation’s east coast. The North Korean military then began a series of live fire drills in conjunction with national celebrations honoring the establishment of the North Korean army eighty-five years ago.
“North Korea is conducting a large-scale firing drill in Wonsan areas this afternoon,” the South’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. “Our military is closely monitoring the North Korean military’s movements and remains firmly prepared.”
The live fire exercises were also coupled with formal statements in the North Korean media that didn’t mince words regarding their feelings on the growing U.S. presence in the region, saying that their military was ready “to bring to closure the history of U.S. scheming and nuclear blackmail”.
“There is no limit to the strike power of the People’s Army armed with our style of cutting-edge military equipment including various precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and submarine-launched ballistic missiles,” the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a front-page editorial.
The USS Carl Vinson and accompanying strike group, seen by many as the platform from which President Trump could order military action intended to remove Kim Jong Un’s nuclear arsenal from his control, is expected to be joined by two Japanese destroyers as well as ships from South Korea’s Navy. According to reports, South Korean naval vessels are amidst live-fire exercises in the waters west of the Korean peninsula with U.S. destroyers, which should conclude in time for the South Korean and American vessels already present to join the Carl Vinson strike group when it arrives.
China, who recently put all of their bombers on high alert status, has repeatedly called for calm among the South Koreans, North Koreans and United States as tensions surrounding Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions continue to rise.
“We hope that all parties, including Japan, can work with China to promote an early peaceful resolution of the issue, and play the role, put forth the effort, and assume the responsibility that they should,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing. His statement represents a public shift in China’s posture toward assisting in the international effort to denuclearize North Korea.
The White House is expected to host all one hundred members of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday for a historic briefing on North Korea expected to be presided over by the likes of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A similar briefing is said to be in the planning stages for the House of Representatives.
Image courtesy of Reuters