Philippine Daily Inquirer
War materiel amassed on borders of Korea
Seoul on heightened alert as North seen to test nukes again
SEOUL— South Korea was on heightened alert on Friday ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.
North Korea marks the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People’s Army on Tuesday as it concludes winter military drills at the same time as US and South Korean exercises run until the end of April, said Lee Duk-haeng, South Korea’s unification ministry spokesperson.
“It is a situation where a lot of 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,” Lee told a briefing.
“We are closely watching the situation,” he said, adding that South Korea would not let its guard down.
North Korea said on Friday the state of affairs on the Korean peninsula was “extremely perilous” because of “madcap American nuclear war maneuvers.”
Tensions have risen sharply in recent months after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests. US President Donald Trump had vowed to prevent North Korea from hitting the United States with a nuclear missile.
South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, told top officials on Thursday that given the April 25 anniversary of the North’s army, there were concerns that North Korea “can make another provocation again at any time.”
US officials said there was a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signaling a possible heightened state of readiness by reclusive North Korea’s sole major ally, although the officials played down concern and left open a range of possible reasons. Beijing denied its aircraft were on an increased level of alert.
The Russian military on Friday denied media reports that it was building up its forces near the border with North Korea, the Interfax news agency reported, citing an army spokesperson.
Moscow said military movements seen by residents there were part of pre-planned exercises.
US and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test in violation of United Nations sanctions, something the United States, China and others have warned against.
On Thursday, Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea” after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super mighty preemptive strike.”
North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement that its military was ready to respond to American aggression.
“Now that we possess mighty nuclear power to protect ourselves from US nuclear threat, wewill respond without the slightest hesitation to full out war with full out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike and we will emerge victor in the final battle with the United States,” said the statement.
Trump told a news conference on Thursday “some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours” and that he was confident Chinese President Xi Jinping would “try very hard” to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.
Trump gave no indication of what the moves might be. None of the US officials who told Reuters about the heightened level of activity by Chinese bombers suggested alarm or signaled that they knew the precise reason for such activity.