South Korea on heightened alert as North Korea readies for army anniversary

Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:40pm GMT
 

By Ju-min Park and Ben Blanchard

SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - 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 will mark 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 U.S. and South Korean exercises running until the end of April, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Lee 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-U.S. 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 manoeuvres aimed at trampling on our sovereignty and right to survival."

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. U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.

South Korean acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn told top officials on Thursday that given the April 25 anniversary, there were concerns that North Korea "can make another provocation again at any time."

New satellite imagery analysed by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, found some activity under way at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, but said it was unclear whether the site was in a "tactical pause" ahead of another test or was carrying out normal operations.   Continued...

People hold plastic flowers behind North Korean soldiers marching during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of the country's founding father, Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea April 15, 2017.    REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
 
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