North Korea marks army anniversary with live fire drill

Seoul: North Korea on Tuesday marked the 85th founding anniversary of its military with a massive live fire drill in an apparent show of force amid tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes.

Instead of conducting a nuclear test or missile launch, North Korea staged the drill near the eastern city of Wonsan on the Korean People’s Army (KPA) anniversary, according to the South Korean military.

The drill coincided with military exercises held by the US and South Korean navies in the Yellow Sea, off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula.

The USS Michigan, one of US’ most powerful submarines, also arrived in South Korea on Tuesday.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have heightened amid concerns about a possible pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang by the US to counter its provocative acts, Yonhap news agency reported.

Speculation was rife that Pyongyang may conduct its sixth nuclear test or launch a long-range ballistic missile to mark its military event.

“If the US and warmongers run amok with a reckless pre-emptive strike, we will stage the most brutal punishment of a pre-emptive attack in the sky and land as well as at sea and from underwater without any warning or prior notice,” said Rodong Sinmun, a North Korean newspaper of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

The North held a meeting on Monday to celebrate the KPA’s anniversary, stressing it was ready to respond to possible Washington military actions.

“If the enemies dare opt for the military adventure despite our repeated warnings, our armed forces will wipe the strongholds of aggression off the surface of the earth through the powerful preemptive nuclear attacks,” said Pak Yong-sik, the minister of the North Korean armed forces.

Meanwhile, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said that North Korea does not seem to have any major events planned for the anniversary despite its war rhetoric.

“Another military parade is not expected, as North Korea already held a massive parade on the birthday of late state founder Kim Il-sung,” said a military official.

Tensions are still running high as the US Navy strike group, including aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, is expected to sail near the Korean Peninsula this weekend.

North Korea’s media had earlier warned that its military was ready to “sink” the carrier “with a single strike” if needed.