North Korea hails 'largest ever' firing drill

Apr 27, 2017, 02:00

Instead of a nuclear blast or a big missile test, North Korea marked Tuesday's 85th anniversary of the founding of its military by deploying a large number of long-range artillery units on its east coast for a live-fire drill, South Korea's military said.

South Korea's military said it's closely watching North Korean troop movement around Wonsan, but didn't confirm the Yonhap report, which cited an unnamed source to report that the North carried out an exercise involving 300 to 400 artillery pieces.

The U.S. military has started moving parts of the controversial THAAD anti-missile defense system into a planned deployment site in South Korea, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday, amid high tensions over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.

The port call by the USS Michigan, which is created to carry ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, came as a United States aircraft carrier strike group steamed toward Korean waters in an effort to deter North Korea from a sixth nuclear test or more missile launches in defiance of UN sanctions.

"(North Korea) believes the only way to deter the USA from attacking them, and maintaining the power of the Kim regime, is by the possession of nuclear weapons", said Joe Bermudez, an analyst with 38 North, a North Korean monitoring group.

South Korea's navy said it was conducting a live-fire exercise with USA destroyers in waters west of the Korean peninsula and would soon join the carrier strike group approaching the region.

The senior U.S. Navy officer overseeing military operations in the Pacific says U.S. naval forces in the region are capable of defending themselves against any missiles North Korea may fire at them.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump said the status quo with nuclear-armed North Korea was unacceptable, calling for new sanctions on the country. However, North Korea has, in fact, been offered multiple security assurances across several USA administrations: take the 2005 joint statement reached during six-party talks, or the "Leap Day Deal" signed during president Barack Obama's term.

The US has also sent a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Michigan, to the peninsula where it will conduct drills with the USS Carlson.

The Trump administration, which has been urging China to rein in Pyongyang, is due to hold a classified briefing for senators on the situation at the White House later on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its fifth missile test this year.

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The Chinese president said he hopes all sides avoid doing anything to worsen the tense situation on the Korean peninsula, according to the Xinhua news agency.

North Korea has ambitions to build a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the USA mainland.

Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested Tuesday that he wants to encourage the Trump administration to take a harder line with China over North Korea's nuclear provocations, and this is just the kind of pressure a president sometimes needs in a toxic atmosphere when partisan concerns threaten to override national-security needs.

"North Korea's unlawful weapons programs represent a clear, grave threat to U.S. national security in the United States, the ROK and Japan". Pyongyang launched a missile one day after the 105th birthday of late founder Kim Il Sung on April 15.

"The council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on the North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programmes". Hecker, a United States scientist who has visited North Korea seven times since 2004, told me last week during a phone press conference that the regime never shared anything with its public about building a bomb before 2003.

FILE - In this Friday, April 7, 2017 file image provided by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea as the United States blasted a Syrian air base with a barrage of cruise missiles in fiery retaliation for a gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians earlier in the week.

Yun met with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts Tuesday in Tokyo, and China's main point man on North Korea was also in town, in a sign that diplomacy is not entirely dead.

The US says it will only target North Korean missiles, but China and Russian Federation see the system's powerful radars as a security threat.

The official China Daily newspaper said it was time to step back from harsh rhetoric.

Japan's Foreign Ministry announced that China's envoy for North Korea, Wu Dawei, was arriving in Tokyo for talks with Kanasugi that may take place later this week.

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