SIX days remain until the next big anniversary on the North Korean calendar and there are fears leader Kim Jong-un will use it to make up for his failed missile launch on Sunday.
The country’s military, the Korean People’s Army, will mark the 85th anniversary of its founding on Tuesday, April 25, and speculation is growing that the rogue nation will celebrate the occasion by launching another ballistic missile or testing a nuclear weapon.
Mr Kim was embarrassed greatly on Sunday morning when — with the eyes of the world fixed on him — his attempt to launch a missile failed seconds after it was fired.
Sunday’s launch was timed around the Day of the Sun, which was the 105th birthday of North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il-sung, the current leader’s late grandfather.
With the weekend display of force a fizzer, there are fears the isolated state may use the next big day on the national calendar — April 25 — to make up for it.
The US’s ABC News reports that a nuclear test or missile launch is more likely on April 25 because it is “explicitly a military observation”, as opposed to the Day of the Sun, which is focused on honouring Kim Il-sung.
A provocative display on Tuesday could also “dilute the potential PR impact” of last weekend’s failure, ABC reports.
The international humiliation of the failed launch was unlikely to stop North Korea’s weapons program, according to CNN’s Will Ripley, who was inside Pyongyang at the weekend.
“We know with North Korea that if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again,” he said.
“Kim Jong-un has made it clear that failures don’t deter him or his rocket scientists from trying to test more missiles.
“So it’s really not a matter of if, but when. Will it happen while Vice President [Mike] Pence is here in the region? Could it happen closer to April 25th, which is a major military anniversary here in North Korea?
“It could be neither of those dates; we just simply don’t know.
“But what we do know is that North Korea’s nuclear test site at Punggye-ri is primed and ready for the nation’s sixth nuclear test.”
The speculation comes as the Pentagon prepares to undertake two major missile tests of its own.
The US will test-fire an improved Standard Missile off a navy ship to assess its ability to shoot down any missiles launched by North Korea, CNN reports.
A separate long-range missile test will be held at the end of May from bases in Alaska and California in order to check the US’s ability to defend itself from a possible North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile.
Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports that the Pentagon has sent two more aircraft carriers towards the Korean Peninsula as the April 25 anniversary looms.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, the US has deployed the aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz to the Sea of Japan to back up the USS Carl Vinson, which is expected to reach the waters off the Korean Peninsula next week.
The US Navy’s report that the Carl Vinson and an armada of warships were steaming towards the region unravelled overnight, when it was revealed that the ships were still in waters off Australia.
The Trump administration has not confirmed whether the report about the extra aircraft carriers is true, but US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said he would not publicly announce US military moves for fear of giving opponents a strategic advantage.
When asked if he had ruled out military action against North Korea, Mr Trump said past presidents had been “outplayed” by leader Kim Jong-un.
“I don’t want to telegraph what I’m doing or what I’m thinking,” he told Fox News.
“I hope there’s going to be peace, but they’ve been talking with this gentleman for a long time.
“You read [Bill] Clinton’s book and he said, ‘Oh, we made such a great peace deal’ and it was a joke.
“You look at different things over the years with President Obama. Everybody has been outplayed. They’ve all been outplayed by this gentleman and we’ll see what happens.”
Meanwhile, Mr Trump has praised China for putting pressure on North Korea to stop its development of nuclear weapons.
Mr Trump established a strong relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping after their meeting at his Florida getaway Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, the President told Fox News in an interview aired on Tuesday.
“He’s working so nicely,” Mr Trump said of Mr Xi, from the sidelines of the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House.
“Many coal ships have been sent back, fuel has been sent back. They’re not dealing the same way. Nobody’s ever seen it like that. Nobody’s ever seen such a positive response on our behalf from China.”
Mr Trump has repeatedly pressured China to help stop North Korea’s nuclear program, particularly via Twitter, but a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman was blunt when asked by a reporter whether China could do more.
“China is not the culprit of the issue, nor does it hold the crux and the key to resolving it,” Lu Kang said during a press conference on Monday.
China and North Korea remained “friendly neighbours”, he said.
Mr Lu said Beijing favoured a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, but disagreed with the US threat of deploying a missile-defence system in the region.
SOURCE: newsnow worldnews