Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

South Korea on heightened alert as isolated North readies for army celebration

South Korea on heightened alert as isolated North readies for army celebration

Tensions have escalated over North Korean moves to accelerate its arms programs, including developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States and announcing that a declared priority is to develop a hydrogen bomb.

Meanwhile, the US, fresh off strikes on Syria and Afghanistan, has been talking tough on North Korea, with the Trump administration warning that the USA policy of "strategic patience" with the isolated country is over and that "all options are on the table".

Hwang told a meeting of ministers, "The North failed in its attempted missile launch on Sunday, but there are worries that it will carry out a provocation on the founding anniversary of its Army on April 25 given its recent behavior and statements".

US and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test in violation of United Nations sanctions, something both the USA and China have warned against.

In a statement on Wednesday, Russia said that the proposed text did not contain the words "through dialogue" for the solution to problems on the Korean Peninsula, which were seen in past Security Council press statements denouncing North Korea's missile launches. North Korea often violates United Nations resolutions and tensions have only increased since US President Donald Trump took office.

Trump also told reporters his administration was analyzing the Iran nuclear deal "very carefully", and would have more to say about its fate in the "not-too-distant future".

In early March, the North simultaneously fired four ballistic missiles off its east coast, three of which fell provocatively close to Japan, in what it said was a drill for an attack on United States bases in the country. It is rare for council members to wrangle over standard language and the dispute came amid USA and Russian tensions over Moscow's support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.

Asked about Trump's comment about Xi trying hard, Lu said Xi and Trump had had a full and deep discussion about North Korea when they met this month.

Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol told the BBC that North Korea believed its nuclear weapons "protect" it from the threat of U.S. military action.

Diplomats said China had agreed to the statement. They have a pretty good power, not a great power perhaps, but a pretty good power over North Korea.

South Korea's acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn called on the military and security agencies to maintain vigilance.

US Defence Secretary, James Mattis, said: "You're aware that the leader of North Korea again recklessly tried to provoke something by launching a missile".

North Korea, however, withdrew from the six-party talks aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in 2009 and has shown no interest in returning.

"North Korea's unlawful weapons programmes represent a clear, grave threat to U.S. national security".

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