North Korea told the United States on Saturday to end its “military hysteria” or face retaliation as the reclusive state marked the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father with mass military parades in the capital Pyongyang.
The warning came as a US aircraft carrier and destroyers steamed into waters off the Korean Peninsular.
The arrival follows what is perceived as a shift in US military policy under President Donald Trump. Last week, the US attacked a Syrian airfield for the first time with cruise missiles and this week dropped the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan. Another first.
Does this shift include North Korea is the question as tensions on the Korean peninsula have escalated over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile testing program in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. North Korea is reportedly building an intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike the United States.
Pyongyang has conducted several missile tests this year, the latest on April 5. In March, it did a simultaneous launch of four missiles for the first time, with some landing in the sea as close as 300km from Japan’s coast.
That was the nearest North Korean missiles have come to Japan’s mainland and the launch was later analyzed as being a simulation for an attack on a US military base in Japan. Tokyo has also said that North Korea has chemical weapons such as sarin that could be loaded onto missiles.
The North’s warning, carried by its KCNA news agency, came as leader Kim Jong-un arrived at Pyongyang’s main Kim Il-sung square, named after his grandfather, for a military parade marking what’s known as the “Day of the Sun.”
Goose-stepping soldiers and marching bands filled the square next to the Taedonggang River in the hazy spring sunshine as tanks, multiple launch rocket systems and other weapons waited to parade.
“All the brigandish provocative moves of the US in the political, economic and military fields pursuant to its hostile policy toward the DPRK will thoroughly be foiled through the toughest counteraction of the army and people of the DPRK,” KCNA said, citing a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army.
DPRK stands for the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The United States has warned that a policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea is over. US Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Korea this weekend on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.
China, North Korea’s sole major ally and neighbor which nevertheless opposes its weapons program, on Friday again called for talks to defuse the crisis.
“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing.
North Korea has called the UN resolutions on its nuclear and missile program an infringement of its sovereign rights to self defense and pursuit of space exploration. The country is under extensive trade sanctions as a result of its nuclear program.
China is the North’s main trading partner and this month started to block coal shipments from the North, one of Pyongyang’s major sources of revenue.
Beijing has also indicated after talks with Washington that it will broaden sanctions on Pyongyang if it goes ahead with more nuclear tests, including cutting off oil supplies.
Severe economic sanctions carry their own risk. It was an oil blockade on Japan for its military aggression in China that is regarded by some historians as a trigger for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Without oil, an industrialized economy collapses.