North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile After US VP Harris Tours DMZ

In this file photo, people watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on September 25, 2022. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP).

 

US Vice President Kamala Harris toured South Korea’s heavily fortified border with the nuclear-armed North on Thursday, part of a trip aimed at strengthening the security alliance with Seoul.

But hours after Harris’s plane left Osan Airbase, North Korea fired an “unidentified ballistic missile,” Seoul’s military said.

Thursday night’s launch is Pyongyang’s third in less than a week, continuing a record-breaking blitz of weapons tests this year.

Earlier, speaking at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Harris had emphasised that the US commitment to South Korea’s defence was “ironclad”, saying the allies were “aligned” in their response to the growing threat posed by the North’s weapons programmes.

Seoul and Washington want “a complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” — but in the interim they are “ready to address any contingency”, she said.

South Korean and US officials have warned for months that Kim Jong Un is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, with Seoul’s spy agency saying it could come as soon as next month.

Harris decried North Korea’s “brutal dictatorship, rampant human rights violations and an unlawful weapons program that threatens peace and stability”.

At an observation post atop a steep hill overlooking North Korea, Harris peered through bulky binoculars as US and South Korean soldiers pointed out features, including defences, in the area.

“It’s so close,” she said.

Harris also visited the Panmunjom Truce Village — where then-US president Donald Trump met the North’s Kim Jong Un in 2019 — and talked to US soldiers at Camp Bonifas in the Joint Security Area.

On the North Korean side of the border at Panmunjom, guards in hazmat suits could be seen watching as Harris was shown the demarcation line between the two countries — which remain technically at war.

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Yoon talks

Washington has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea to help protect it from the North, and the allies are conducting a large-scale joint naval exercise this week in a show of force.

Harris’ trip to the DMZ likely infuriated Pyongyang, which branded United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the “worst destroyer of international peace” when she visited the border in August.

Harris visited Seoul after a trip to Japan, where she attended the state funeral of assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Earlier Thursday, Harris met President Yoon Suk-yeol for talks dominated by security issues — although Seoul also raised its concerns over a new law signed by US President Joe Biden that removes subsidies for electric cars built outside America, impacting Korean automakers such as Hyundai and Kia.

Harris, America’s first woman vice president, also met what the White House called “groundbreaking women leaders” of South Korea to discuss gender equality issues, a topic she said she raised with Yoon during their talks.

Yoon, who has pledged to abolish Seoul’s Ministry of Gender Equality, has faced domestic criticism for a lack of women in his cabinet.

Nuclear test?

On Wednesday, the South’s spy agency said North Korea’s next nuclear test could happen in the window between China’s upcoming party congress October 16 and the US midterms on November 7.

North Korea, which is under multiple UN sanctions for its weapons programmes, typically seeks to maximise the geopolitical impact of its tests with careful timing.

The isolated regime has tested nuclear weapons six times since 2006, most recently in 2017. Earlier this month it changed its laws, declaring itself an “irreversible” nuclear power.

“North Korea’s growing nuclear missile threat raises concerns in Seoul about the reliability of Washington’s defence commitments,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

But sending the USS Ronald Reagan supercarrier and Harris to South Korea demonstrates both America’s military capabilities and political will, he added.

During President Yoon’s tenure, Seoul and Washington have boosted joint military exercises, which they insist are purely defensive.

But North Korea sees them as rehearsals for an invasion.

Harris also raised the issue of Seoul working more closely with Japan on security issues during her trip.

Seoul announced Thursday it would hold trilateral anti-submarine drills with Japan and the US, the first such exercises since 2017.

South Korean officials said this weekend they had detected signs Pyongyang could be preparing to fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

AFP

North Korea Sounds Warning As US, South Korea Begin Naval Drills

File footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown on a television screen at a train station in Seoul on September 9, 2022, after North Korea passed a law allowing it to carry out a preventive nuclear strike and declaring its status as a nuclear-armed state “irreversible”, state media said Friday. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

 

South Korea and the United States began their first combined naval exercise near the peninsula in five years on Monday, leading to a warning by North Korea that the allies risked triggering war.

South Korea’s hawkish President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, has vowed to beef up joint military drills with the United States, after years of failed diplomacy with North Korea under his predecessor.

“This exercise was prepared to demonstrate the strong will of the South Korea-US alliance to respond to North Korean provocations,” the South’s navy said in a statement.

At the United Nations, North Korea’s ambassador, Kim Song, said that the exercises draw “serious concern.”

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“Obviously, this is an extremely dangerous act of igniting the fuse to drive the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of war,” he told the General Assembly.

The drills come a day after nuclear-armed Pyongyang conducted another ballistic missile launch, the latest in its record-breaking blitz of weapons tests this year.

Earlier this month, the North revised its nuclear weapons law, enshrining a “first strike” doctrine and vowing never to give up its nukes.

Kim told the United Nations that the United States “compelled” action by the North, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The US should clearly understand that its heinous, hostile policy against the DPRK over the past 30 years has brought about today’s reality and ask itself and ponder how far it will prolong this situation.”

Washington is Seoul’s key security ally and stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect it from the North.

The four-day exercise on South Korea’s east coast will involve more than 20 vessels and an assortment of aircraft, which will conduct drills for anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare operations, tactical manoeuvres and other maritime operations, the navy added.

“Through this exercise, we will further improve the ability to conduct joint operations between the naval forces of the two countries,” Kwak Kwang-sub, a senior South Korean naval officer, said in the statement.

North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its programmes to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Close neighbour China said it had “noted” the joint military drills in the region when asked about the missile launch on Monday, and called for “dialogue and consultation”.

“The main issue is that the North Korean side’s legitimate and reasonable concerns have not received due response,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a routine briefing.

“The US should shoulder its own responsibilities, stop confrontation and pressure, and create conditions for the resumption of meaningful dialogue.”

Seoul has also detected signs the North is preparing to fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile, the president’s office said Saturday, a weapon Pyongyang last tested in May.

Washington and Seoul have long carried out joint exercises, which they insist are purely defensive. North Korea, however, sees them as rehearsals for an invasion.

Last month, the United States and South Korea staged their biggest combined military drills since 2018 — the resumption of large-scale training sessions that had been scaled back due to Covid-19 and the period of diplomacy with Pyongyang.

AFP

North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on September 25, 2022.  Jung Yeon-je/AFP

 

North Korea fired a ballistic missile Sunday, Seoul’s military said, just days after a US aircraft carrier arrived for joint drills with the South in a show of force against Pyongyang.

With talks long-stalled, nuclear-armed North Korea has doubled down on its banned weapons programmes, even revamping its laws earlier this month to declare itself an “irreversible” nuclear power.

The Sunday launch is the latest in a record-breaking blitz of weapons tests by Pyongyang so far this year, including firing an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile at full range for the first time since 2017.

South of the border, hawkish new President Yoon Suk-yeol, who vowed on the campaign trail to get tough with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has ramped up South Korea’s joint drills with key security ally the US.

Seoul’s military “detected one short range missile fired by North Korea at 6:53 today around Taechon in North Pyongan province towards the East Sea,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

The missile flew around 600 kilometres (373 miles) at an altitude of around 60 kilometres, with maximum speed of around Mach 5, the JCS added in a statement.

“Our military maintains a full readiness posture and is closely cooperating with the US while strengthening surveillance and vigilance,” it said.

Japan’s coast guard issued a warning for ships after the launch, and Tokyo’s defence minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile landed outside of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

“The repeated ballistic missile launches by North Korea are absolutely unforgivable and the remarkable improvement in its missile technology is something we cannot overlook,” Hamada said.

Kamala Harris visit 

South Korea’s President Yoon, who took office in May, has vowed to beef up joint military exercises with the United States after years of failed diplomacy with North Korea under his predecessor.

On Friday, the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan and vessels from its strike group docked in the southern port city of Busan, part of a push by Seoul and Washington to have more US strategic assets operating in the region.

Yoon is also due to meet US Vice President Kamala Harris Thursday when she visits Seoul this week, following a trip by President Joe Biden in May, and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month.

“The timing of this latest test is sandwiched between the arrival of USS Ronald Reagan this week and VP Harris’ visit to Seoul next week,” Soo Kim, an analyst at the RAND Corporation, told AFP.

“It’s North Korea’s way of showing defiance of the alliance and injecting itself at an opportune time.”

The USS Reagan will take part in joint drills off South Korea’s east coast this month.

Washington is Seoul’s key security ally and stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect it from the North.

The two countries have long carried out joint exercises, which they insist are purely defensive but North Korea sees them as rehearsals for an invasion.

“Pyongyang could be making a show of strength while a US aircraft carrier is visiting South Korea for defence exercises,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“But North Korea’s major tests are, most of all, part of a long-term campaign for advancing offensive military capabilities.”

 Nuclear test next?

South Korean and US officials have been warning for months that Kim is preparing to conduct another nuclear test.

Seoul had also detected signs the North was preparing to fire a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM), the president’s office said Saturday, a weapon Pyongyang last tested in May.

The isolated regime has tested nuclear weapons six times since 2006. Its last and most powerful one in 2017 — which Pyongyang claimed was a hydrogen bomb — had an estimated yield of 250 kilotons.

“North Korea might be delaying its seventh nuclear test out of respect for China’s upcoming political conference that Xi Jinping is tightly scripting to extend his leadership,” Easley said.

“But there are limits to Pyongyang’s self-restraint.”

AFP

North Korea Law Makes Nuclear Programme ‘Irreversible’

File footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is shown on a television screen at a train station in Seoul on Septeber 9, 2022, after North Korea passed a law allowing it to carry out a preventive nuclear strike and declaring its status as a nuclear-armed state “irreversible”, state media said Friday. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

 

 

North Korea has passed a law declaring its readiness to launch preventive nuclear strikes, including in the face of conventional attacks, state media said Friday.

The move effectively eliminates the possibility of denuclearisation talks, with leader Kim Jong Un saying the country’s status as a nuclear state was now “irreversible”.

The announcement comes at a time of heightened tension between North and South, with Pyongyang blaming Seoul for the outbreak of Covid-19 in its territory and conducting a record number of weapons tests this year.

The newly enacted law says North Korea can carry out a preventive nuclear strike “automatically” and “immediately to destroy the hostile forces” when a foreign country poses an imminent threat, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The law specifically states the North can use nuclear weapons “in case of a nuclear or non-nuclear attack by hostile forces on the state leadership and the command organization of the state’s nuclear forces”, among other situations, according to state media.

“The status of our country as a nuclear weapons state has become irreversible”, Kim said, KCNA reported.

The law “publicly justifies Pyongyang’s use of its nuclear power” in the event of any military clash, Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute told AFP.

As the North’s dictator, “Kim Jong Un does not need laws to launch a nuclear strike”, but the new law serves as a way to “vindicate Kim’s use of nuclear weapons in case of emergency by disclosing the principles of nuclear use at home and abroad in advance,” he added.

Kim in July said his country was “ready to mobilise” its nuclear capability in any war with the United States and the South.

He reiterated that Pyongyang would never give up the nuclear weapons it needed to counter hostilities from Washington, claiming the United States was seeking the “collapse” of his regime.

Nuclear talks and diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang have been derailed since 2019 over sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to give up in return.

“There is absolutely no such thing as giving up nuclear weapons first, and there is no denuclearisation and no negotiation for it,” Kim said during a speech at North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament on Thursday, KCNA reported.

– ‘Height of absurdity’ –
A blitz of North Korean weapons tests since January included the firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.

Washington and South Korean officials have repeatedly warned that the North is preparing to carry out what would be its seventh nuclear test.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said the North’s latest announcement clearly reaffirmed Pyongyang’s stance — that nuclear negotiations are no longer on the table.

“Pyongyang is likely to form closer ties with China and Russia against Washington, and … launch its seventh nuclear test in the near future,” he told AFP.

In Washington, the State Department said it remains focused on the objective of “the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

“We have made clear we have no hostile intent” toward North Korea, a spokesperson said, but added that Pyongyang continues to ignore overtures for talks.

“The United States remains fully committed to the defence of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) using the full range of US defence capabilities,” the spokesperson said.

Seoul, Washington’s key security ally, last month offered Pyongyang an “audacious” aid plan that would include food, energy and infrastructure help in return for the North abandoning its nuclear weapons programme.

But Pyongyang ridiculed the offer, calling it the “height of absurdity” and a deal the North would never accept.

South Korea’s hawkish President Yoon Suk-yeol said last month that his administration had no plans to pursue its own nuclear deterrent.

North Korea Fires Suspected Rocket Launchers

File photo of North Korean President Kim Jong Un (C) attending a grand military parade held at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to commemorate the 90th founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea fired what appeared to be multiple rocket launchers Sunday, Seoul said, the latest in a series of provocations by the nuclear-armed nation to heighten tensions in the region.

The South Korean military detected “flight trajectories” that were suspected to shot from North Korean artillery, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

“Our military spotted flight trajectories that are suspected to be North Korea’s multiple rocket launchers from around 18:21 to 18:37 pm today,” said the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a text message to reporters.

“Our military has strengthened surveillance and vigilance, and maintained a thorough readiness posture while keeping close US-South Korea cooperation,” it added, without further details.

Seoul authorities did not share how many trajectories were detected in total.

The presidential National Security Office held a meeting over the North’s firing, and said it was “closely monitoring” the situation in case of additional launches by Pyongyang.

North Korea has carried out a blitz of sanctions-busting weapons tests this year, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.

Washington and Seoul officials have also warned that the isolated regime is preparing to carry out what would be its seventh nuclear test — a move that the United States warned would provoke a “swift and forceful” response.

Last month, South Korean Defence Minister Lee Jong-sup said Seoul would “strengthen” its defence capabilities, as well as its security cooperation with Washington and Tokyo, to counter the nuclear threat from Pyongyang.

A total of six US top-of-the-line F-35A fighters arrived in the South last week for a 10-day allied exercise running until July 14, in the first public deployment of American stealth warplanes in the country since late 2017.

North Korea’s Kim Congratulates Queen Elizabeth II On Platinum Jubilee

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (R) stands with Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince of Wales to watch a special flypast from the Buckingham Palace balcony in London on June 2, 2022. Daniel LEAL / AFP

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a congratulatory message to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as London kicked off celebrations to mark her 70 years on the throne, Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said.

London and Pyongyang established diplomatic relations in 2000 and have maintained their respective embassies, despite North Korea’s worsening ties with the West over its nuclear and other weapons development.

“I send my congratulations to you and your people on the occasion of the national day of your country, the official anniversary of your Majesty’s birthday,” Kim said in the message to the queen, which the foreign ministry said was sent on Thursday.

The British Embassy in Pyongyang is currently closed due to the rigid entry and exit restrictions imposed by North Korea in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that Queen Elizabeth had sent Kim a congratulatory message on the anniversary of the country’s founding, which falls every year on September 9.

“As the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea celebrate their National Day, I send my good wishes for the future,” the queen said in the message at the time, referring to the country by its official name, according to KCNA.

The North has conducted 17 weapons tests this year, including test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at the full range for the first time in nearly five years.

Washington and Seoul have both warned that Kim is poised to conduct another nuclear test any day now.

Tens of thousands of people cheered the queen in London on Thursday as the nation began its four-day celebrations for her platinum jubilee.

AFP

UN Warns Of ‘Dire Consequences’ Of North Korea COVID-19 Response

In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 25, 2021 the United Nations logo is seen inside the United Nations in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP

 

The United Nations voiced alarm Tuesday at the human rights implications of North Korea’s response to the massive coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Leader Kim Jong Un has ordered nationwide lockdowns to try and slow the spread of the disease through the country’s unvaccinated population, and deployed the military after what he has called a botched response to the outbreak.

“The latest restrictions, which include putting people under strict isolation and imposing further travel restrictions, will have dire consequences for those already struggling to meet their basic needs,” UN rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters.

“We urge the… authorities to ensure that all measures adopted to tackle the pandemic are necessary, proportionate, non-discriminatory, time-bound and strictly in line with international human rights law,” she said.

Authorities should evaluate “the impact of any measures on vulnerable populations, taking into account experience elsewhere in effectively addressing the pandemic and to mitigate any adverse impact”.

A total of 56 deaths and nearly 1.5 million cases of “fever” have been reported in North Korea since the country announced its first Covid case a week ago, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

North Korea’s leader has slammed healthcare officials for their failure to keep pharmacies open, and has put himself front and centre of the response, saying the outbreak is causing “great upheaval”.

Throssell also reiterated a call from the UN rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, for countries “to relax sanctions to enable urgent humanitarian and Covid-related assistance” to the impoverished country.

North Korea has one of the world’s worst healthcare systems, with poorly-equipped hospitals, few intensive care units, and no Covid treatment drugs or mass testing ability, experts say.

“We encourage the DPRK as a matter of urgency to discuss with the UN the opening of channels for humanitarian support, including medicines, vaccines, equipment and other life-saving support,” Throssell said.

“We also urged authorities to facilitate the return of UN and other international staff to the DPRK to assist in the provision of support, including to vulnerable populations and those living in rural and border areas.”

AFP

North Korea Fires Missile After COVID-19 Cases Prompt Kim To Order Lockdown

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 17, 2022, shows the test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon at an undisclosed location in North Korea. STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea confirmed its first-ever Covid cases Thursday and declared a “serious emergency”, with leader Kim Jong Un appearing in a mask on television for the first time to order nationwide lockdowns.

Hours after the shock announcement — the first time the nuclear-armed country has ever admitted to a case of Covid-19 — Seoul’s military said it had detected three short-range ballistic missiles fired from near Pyongyang.

The launch, one of more than a dozen sanctions-busting weapons tests so far this year, comes shortly after Washington warned that Kim’s regime could test a nuke any day, with satellite images indicating fresh activity at nuclear sites.

Earlier Thursday, North Korea said it had moved into “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system” after patients sick with fever in Pyongyang tested positive for the “Omicron BA.2 variant” of Covid-19.

Kim, wearing a mask on state television for the first time, oversaw an emergency politburo meeting to discuss the outbreak and “called on all the cities and counties of the whole country to thoroughly lock down their areas.”

Kim told the meeting that the goal was to “quickly cure the infections in order to eradicate the source of the virus spread,” KCNA said, without specifying how many Covid infections had been detected.

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North Korea’s crumbling health infrastructure would struggle to deal with a major outbreak, with its 25 million people not vaccinated, experts say.

By following its admission of Covid cases with a missile test, North Korea is signalling “coronavirus control and its pursuit of national defence are two separate things,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies said.

“It is now reasonable to assume it could also conduct a nuclear test with Kim Jong Un’s greenlight at any moment,” he added.

No Vaccines 

This file photo taken on April 25, 2022, and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 26 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) attending a grand military parade held at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to commemorate the 90th founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

“For Pyongyang to publicly admit Omicron cases, the public health situation must be serious,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul said.

“Pyongyang will likely double down on lockdowns, even though the failure of China’s zero-Covid strategy suggests that approach won’t work against the Omicron variant.”

North Korea has turned down offers of vaccinations from the World Health Organization, China, and Russia.

Accepting vaccines through the WHO’s Covax scheme “requires transparency over how vaccines are distributed,” Go Myong-Hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies told AFP.

“That’s why North Korea rejected it,” Go said.

North Korea is surrounded by countries that have battled — or are still fighting to control — significant Omicron-fuelled outbreaks.

South Korea, which has high rates of vaccination, has recently eased almost all Covid-19 restrictions, with cases sharply down after a spike in March.

Neighbouring China, the world’s only major economy to still maintain a zero-Covid policy, is battling multiple Omicron outbreaks.

Major Chinese cities, including the financial capital Shanghai, have been under strict lockdowns for weeks.

China said Thursday it was “ready to provide full support and assistance to North Korea in its fight against the epidemic,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

It appears North Korea will try to avoid China’s strict measures, which have seen millions of people locked into their apartments for several weeks, including in Beijing, said Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute.

But even less harsh measures would create a “severe food shortage and the same chaos China is now facing,” he said.

Seoul-based specialist site NK News reported that areas of Pyongyang had already been locked down for two days, with reports of panic buying.

Nuke Test?

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol, who was sworn in Tuesday, has vowed to get tough with Pyongyang, after five years of failed diplomacy.

After high-profile talks collapsed in 2019, North Korea has doubled down on weapons testing, conducting a blitz of launches so far this year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Satellite imagery indicates North Korea is preparing to conduct a nuclear test, and the United States has warned this could come as soon as this month.

But the Covid-19 outbreak could potentially disrupt their military programme, analysts said.

“There is a possibility of delaying the nuclear test in order to focus on overcoming the coronavirus,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told AFP.

But he said if public fears over an outbreak were to spread, Kim might go ahead with a test “to divert this fear to another place”.

AFP

US Requests UN Security Council Meeting On North Korea

File photo showing the test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon at an undisclosed location in North Korea.  STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

The United States has requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting for Wednesday to discuss North Korea, according to diplomats, amid fears that Pyongyang will resume nuclear testing in the coming weeks.

Washington holds the Security Council presidency for the month of May and has been considering calling a meeting since late last week, the same diplomats said Monday. The public meeting is scheduled for 1900 GMT.

It comes as Pyongyang has dramatically ramped up its sanctions-busting missile launches, conducting 15 weapons tests since January including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.

North Korea’s latest test occurred Saturday when Pyongyang fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, its second missile launch in just three days.

The Wednesday Security Council meeting will be held one day after the swearing in of South Korea’s hawkish new president Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed to get tough on Pyongyang and bolster the US security alliance.

Satellite imagery meanwhile indicates North Korea may also be preparing to resume nuclear testing, with the US State Department on Friday warning a test could come “as early as this month.”

No comment could immediately be obtained from the US diplomatic mission to the UN on Wednesday’s proposed meeting.

Washington has also recently proposed toughening sanctions on North Korea through the Security Council.

A draft Security Council resolution presented last month by the United States and seen by AFP would tighten sanctions, including by reducing from four million to two million barrels the amount of crude oil North Korea would be allowed to import each year for civilian purposes.

But the resolution stands little chance of approval as diplomats say there is no support from China or Russia, which hold veto power and have relations with Pyongyang.

North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile In Latest Show Of Force

This picture taken on April 25, 2022 and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 26 shows vehicles carrying missiles during a military parade to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea fired a ballistic missile Wednesday, Seoul said, a week after Kim Jong Un vowed to boost Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal and just days before the South inaugurates a new, hawkish president.

Pyongyang has conducted 14 weapons tests since January, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.

Last week Kim oversaw a huge military parade, vowed to rapidly expand and improve his nuclear arsenal, and warned of possible “pre-emptive” strikes — as satellite imagery indicates he may soon resume nuclear testing.

The Wednesday test comes days before the May 10 inauguration of South Korea’s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed to take a hard line with North Korea and ramp up security cooperation with the US after years of failed diplomacy.

North Korea fired the ballistic missile at 12:03 pm (0303 GMT), Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, likely from the Sunan Airfield near Pyongyang, the site of previous recent ICBM tests.

The missile flew 470 km (300 miles) and reached an altitude of 780 km, the JCS said, adding it was a “blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”

Japan’s state minister of defence Makoto Oniki confirmed the launch and the missile’s trajectory, saying it had landed “outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.”

North Korea’s “repeated launches of ballistic missiles threaten peace and safety of our nation, the region, and the international community,” he added.

Seoul’s national security council said it “strongly” condemned the launch, urging the North to “cease actions that pose a serious threat to the Korean Peninsula” and to return to dialogue.

Since high-level diplomacy with then-US president Donald Trump collapsed, North Korea has doubled-down on Kim’s plans for military modernisation, seemingly impervious to threats of more sanctions as it ignores the United States offers of talks.

– More nukes? –

This picture taken on April 25, 2022 and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 26 shows vehicles carrying missiles during a military parade to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

Kim Jong Un said at last week’s military parade that he would take measures to develop “the nuclear forces of our state at the fastest possible speed”, according to footage of his speech broadcast on state media.

Repeated negotiations aimed at convincing Kim to give up his nuclear weapons have come to nothing.

“There is a good chance that they test-fired a missile that can be equipped with a nuclear warhead,” Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean studies scholar, told AFP Wednesday.

Kim also warned that he could “pre-emptively” use his nuclear force to counter so-called hostile forces at a meeting with top military brass last week.

Analysts said Kim’s message on his nuclear weapons, plus the recent test, could be seen as a signal to President-elect Yoon, who has threatened a pre-emptive strike on Pyongyang.

“It could be a warning message to… Yoon,” said Hong Min of the Korea Institute for National Unification.

Yoon has suggested he is only willing to talk about peace if North Korea confirms it is willing to denuclearise — something Pyongyang will never accept, Hong said.

“It could also signal Pyongyang’s stance that it has no choice but to further enhance its arsenal if Seoul and Washington decided to deploy strategic military assets to the South,” he added.

– Seoul’s hard line –

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on May 4, 2022. North Korea fired a ballistic missile on May 4, South Korea’s military said, just a week after leader Kim Jong Un vowed to boost Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal at the “fastest possible speed”. Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

For five years under President Moon Jae-in, Seoul has pursued a policy of engagement with Pyongyang, brokering high-level summits between Kim and Trump while reducing joint US military drills the North sees as provocative.

But for President-elect Yoon this “subservient” approach has been a manifest failure.

He said on the campaign trail he would like more US missile defences — and even tactical nuclear weapons — deployed in South Korea and has vowed to ramp up joint military exercises, which infuriate Pyongyang.

US President Joe Biden is due to visit South Korea later this month to meet with Yoon.

Other analysts said that North Korea’s testing blitz could be aimed at taking advantage of gridlock at the United Nations following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It is “virtually impossible” for the Security Council to sanction North Korea — which has supported Russia’s attack on Ukraine — due to Moscow’s veto power, said Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute.

“The North therefore will try to test as many missiles as possible that it has not been able to do so far, enabling it to enhance capabilities of its arsenal at a fast pace.”

-AFP

North Korea Leader Warns Of ‘Preemptive’ Use Of Nuclear Force

This picture taken on April 25, 2022 and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 26 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) attending a grand military parade held at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to commemorate the 90th founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has repeated his warning that Pyongyang could “preemptively” use its nuclear weaponry to counter hostile forces, state media reported Saturday.

Kim told top military officers that to “maintain the absolute superiority” of North Korea’s armed forces, the country should be able to “preemptively and thoroughly contain and frustrate all dangerous attempts and threatening moves… if necessary,” the official KCNA news agency reported.

Pyongyang should continue to build up its arsenal so that it can have the “overwhelming military muscle that no force in the world can provoke,” Kim said, calling it the “lifeline guaranteeing the security of our country”.

The leader’s comments followed similar remarks at a military parade on Monday when he said he could use his atomic arsenal if North Korea’s “fundamental interests” were threatened.

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Kim made his latest comments at a meeting with top brass to praise their work on Monday’s parade, which commemorated the 90th anniversary of the country’s armed forces and showcased its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Despite biting sanctions, North Korea has doubled down on Kim’s military modernisation drive, test-firing a slew of banned weapons this year while ignoring US offers of talks.

Last month Pyongyang test-fired an ICBM at the full range for the first time since 2017, and satellite imagery has shown signs of activity at a nuclear testing site.

The string of weapons tests comes as South Korea prepares for an incoming president, Yoon Suk-yeol, who takes a more hawkish approach to Pyongyang and has not ruled out a preemptive strike if necessary.

Analysts say Kim’s warning shows he is not open to dialogue with Seoul’s new government.

“Kim’s remarks demonstrate no interest in engaging with the incoming Yoon administration in South Korea or restarting denuclearisation talks with the United States,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha University in Seoul.

North Korea Boasts Of ‘Invincible Power’ Ahead Of Key Military Anniversary

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 17, 2022 shows the test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon at an undisclosed location in North Korea.  STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea’s state media boasted Sunday that its armed forces had “gained invincible power” under leader Kim Jong Un as it prepares for a major army holiday that analysts say could be marked with a military parade or major weapons test.

North Korea on Monday celebrates the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army and the nuclear-armed country has staged military parades in the past to mark key holidays.

Pyongyang has carried out more than a dozen weapons tests this year, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.

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A report by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency listed the history of the country’s military achievements, from its battles against the United States in the 1950-53 Korean War to smaller conflicts.

“All the people of the country are looking back deeply on the history of the 100 victory of our revolutionary armed forces,” it said.

The report added Kim had further propelled the country’s military might with his “genius military ideology, excellent military command and unparalleled courage and guts”.

“Our revolutionary armed forces have gained invincible power that the world cannot ignore,” it said, in an apparent reference to the North’s nuclear arsenal.

This picture taken on January 8, 2021 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 9, 2021 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaking during the fourth day of 8th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang. STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP
This picture taken on January 8, 2021, and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 9, 2021, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaking during the fourth day of 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang. STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

Signs that Pyongyang was preparing for its “biggest ever military parade” to mark the upcoming anniversary have been detected, Yonhap news agency reported, citing multiple unnamed government sources.

The parade was likely to take place at midnight, the report said, involving around 20,000 troops and the North’s most sophisticated weaponry including the “monster” Hwasong-17 ICBM as well as hypersonic and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

North Korea had been widely expected to showcase its military strength to mark the 110th anniversary of the birth of its founding leader and Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung on April 15, but instead, the day was celebrated with a civilian parade.

Satellite imagery has also shown continued preparations, with thousands of North Korean troops and scores of vehicles marching in formation at a parade training ground in Pyongyang.

“Typically, troops depart the training ground as soon as the parade is complete, so their presence further indicates an upcoming event,” Martyn Williams, a fellow at the Stimson Center, wrote on the 38 North website.

US and South Korean officials and analysts have also warned Pyongyang could resume nuclear weapons testing for the first time since 2017, citing renewed activity at its key testing site.

AFP