North Korea stages large-scale artillery
drill as U.S. submarine docks in South
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[April 25, 2017]
By Ju-min Park
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea conducted a
big live-fire exercise on Tuesday to mark the foundation of its military
as a U.S. submarine docked in South Korea in a show of force amid
growing concern over the North's nuclear and missile programs.
The port call by the USS Michigan came as a U.S. aircraft carrier strike
group steamed toward Korean waters and as top envoys for North Korea
policy from South Korea, Japan and the United States met in Tokyo.
Fears have risen in recent weeks that North Korea would conduct another
nuclear test or long-range missile launch in defiance of U.N. sanctions,
perhaps on the Tuesday anniversary of the founding of its military.
But instead of a nuclear test or big missile launch, North Korea
deployed a large number of long-range artillery units in the region of
Wonsan on its east coast for a live-fire drill, South Korea's military
said. North Korea has an air base in Wonsan and missiles have also been
"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
The South Korean military was monitoring the situation and "firmly
maintaining readiness", it said.
The South's Yonhap News Agency said earlier the exercise was possibly
supervised by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korea's state media was defiant in a commentary marking the 85th
anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People's Army, saying its
military was prepared "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
North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most
serious security challenge confronting U.S. President Donald Trump. He
has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United
States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table,
including a military strike.
Trump sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group for
exercises off the Korean peninsula as a warning to North Korea and a
show of solidarity with U.S. allies.
South Korea's navy said it was conducting a live-fire exercise with U.S.
destroyers in waters west of the Korean peninsula and would soon join
the carrier strike group approaching the region.
China, North Korea's sole major ally which nevertheless objects to its
weapons development, has repeatedly called for calm, and its envoy for
Korean affairs, Wu Dawei, was in Tokyo on Tuesday.
"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
Japan's envoy on North Korea, Kenji Kanasugi, said after talks with his
U.S. and South Korean counterparts that they agreed China should take a
concrete role to resolve the crisis and it could use an oil embargo as a
tool to press the North.
"We believe China has a very, very important role to play," said the
U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun.
South Korea's envoy, Kim Hong-kyun, said they had also discussed how to
get Russia's help to press North Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to meet Russian President
Vladimir Putin on April 27, the Kremlin said. It did not elaborate.
[to top of second column]
The USS Michigan, an Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarine, arrives
at a naval base in Busan, South Korea, April 25, 2017. Cho
Jueong-ho/Yonhap via REUTERS
RARE SENATE BRIEFING
Matching the flurry of diplomatic and military activity in Asia, the
State Department in Washington said on Monday U.S. Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson would chair a special ministerial meeting of the U.N.
Security Council on North Korea on Friday.
Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National
Intelligence Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs chairman General Joseph Dunford,
would also hold a rare briefing for the entire U.S. Senate on North
Korea on Wednesday, Senate aides said.
A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said those meetings called by
U.S. officials clearly reflected the U.S. pressure that could "ignite a
full-out war" on the Korean peninsula.
"The reality of today again proves the decision to strengthen nuclear
power in quality and quantity under the banner of pursuing economic
development and nuclear power was the correct one," the unidentified
spokesman said in a statement issued by the North's state media.
On Monday, Trump called for tougher U.N. sanctions on the North, saying
it was a global threat and "a problem that we have to finally solve".
"The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable," Trump told a
meeting with the 15 U.N. Security Council ambassadors, including China
and Russia, at the White House. "The council must be prepared to impose
additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic
The official China Daily said it was time for Pyongyang and Washington
to take a step back from harsh rhetoric and heed calls for a peaceful
"Judging from their recent words and deeds, policymakers in Pyongyang
have seriously misread the U.N. sanctions, which are aimed at its
nuclear/missile provocations, not its system or leadership," the
newspaper said in an editorial.
"They are at once perilously overestimating their own strength and
underestimating the hazards they are brewing for themselves."
The nuclear-powered submarine the USS Michigan, which arrived in the
South Korean port of Busan, is built to carry and launch ballistic
missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles.
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina in BEIJING,
Kaori Kaneko, Linda Sieg, Elaine Lies and Tim Kelly in TOKYO, and Steve
Holland, Matt Spetalnick, Susan Heavey and David Brunnstrom in
WASHINGTON, Vladimir Soldatkin in MOSCOW; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing
by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)
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