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North Korea conducting live-fire drill amid tensions with US: South Korean media

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This US Navy photo obtained on March 31, 2017 shows the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and other vessels as they participate in an exercise with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers in the Philippine Sea on March 28, 2017. (Via AFP)

North Korea is reportedly engaged in a large-scale live-fire artillery exercise, in what is apparently intended to signal to a hostile United States that Pyongyang is combat-ready.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the North appeared to have deployed a large number of long-range artillery units in the region of Wonsan on its east coast for the drill.

The day coincides with the anniversary of the establishment of the North’s military. The United States, North Korea’s archenemy, and regional adversaries South Korea and Japan have harbored fears that the occasion might witness another nuclear test by Pyongyang.

North Korea has so far conducted five confirmed nuclear tests and numerous missile test-launches. Pyongyang has also vowed strong action, including a nuclear strike, if it is invaded by the South and the US.

The North faces international pressure to abandon its arms development and nuclear military programs, which it says are meant to protect the country from US hostility.

Pyongyang and Washington have been issuing increasingly gruff threats against one another in recent weeks.

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Also on Tuesday, the North’s media outlets boasted of its “strike power,” which they said included “precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.”

The North’s media also said its military was prepared “to bring to closure the history of US scheming and nuclear blackmail.”

The US has dispatched a strike force, including a large aircraft carried, and a nuclear-powered submarine to the Korean Peninsula.

The nuclear-powered USS Michigan submarine approaches the southeastern South Korean port city of Busan, April 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The USS Michigan submarine earlier docked in South Korea, and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group has been sent over for joint war games in the area. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are also to brief the Senate on Wednesday on Washington’s potential moves vis-à-vis Pyongyang.

Tillerson is also expected to chair a special ministerial meeting of the UN Security Council on North Korea on Friday.

South Korean drill

Separately, South Korea’s Navy said it was conducting a live-fire exercise with US destroyers in the waters west of the Korean Peninsula and would soon join the carrier strike group approaching the region.

Calling on China to help

The US and its allies have pleaded with China to help pressure North Korea — which relies on Beijing as its main supporter — to end its military nuclear program.

Meanwhile, top envoys for North Korea policy from the US, South Korea, and Japan have met to discuss Pyongyang. The Japanese envoy, Kenji Kanasugi, said after the meeting that they all had agreed that China had to take a concrete role to resolve the crisis and it could use an oil embargo as a tool to press the North.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga said Kanasugi and his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei were also likely to meet on Wednesday.

Dawei will also reportedly meet with other Japanese Foreign Ministry officials.

Chinese daily takes aim at North Korea

Separately, an article on the official China Daily lambasted North Korean officials for “seriously” misreading UN sanctions, “which are aimed at its nuclear/missile provocations, not its system or leadership.”

The article also said the North Korean officials were “perilously overestimating their own power.

It said Beijing and Washington had to join forces in bringing about a peaceful resolution to the tensions involving North Korea.

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