World

North Korea marks military anniversary with firing drill

US submarine docks in Busan, S. Korea, as North celebrates army's founding

SEOUL: Nuclear-armed North Korea yesterday marked a military anniversary with a massive conventional firing drill, Seoul said, as a US guided-missile submarine docked in South Korea amid tensions over Pyongyang's weapons ambitions.

Speculation had mounted that North Korea could carry out a sixth nuclear test or another missile launch to mark the 85 years since the founding of its army.

But no such event - which usually happens in the morning - had taken place by mid-afternoon, and Seoul's defence ministry said Pyongyang instead was conducting a "massive fire drill" in the eastern port city of Wonsan.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited a government source as saying that the exercise was North Korea's "largest ever" and presumably overseen by leader Kim Jong Un.

Washington has sent the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the Korean peninsula, where it is expected to arrive - after a delay - later this week.

Confusion had clouded the carrier's whereabouts earlier this month after US officials indicated that it was sailing towards North Korea when it was in fact heading south.

The vessel will take part in joint naval drills with South Korea's forces to "demonstrate Seoul and Washington's strong determination to punish North Korean provocations", the South Korean Navy said in a statement.

They will take place in the Sea of Japan - also known as the East Sea - it said.

ALLIES

The allies also began joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea - also known as the West Sea - yesterday "in relation to the current security situation".

The nuclear-powered US submarine USS Michigan made a port call at South Korea's Busan yesterday in another show of force.

US President Donald Trump has said the US is sending an "armada", including submarines, to the Korean peninsula

According to the US Navy's Submarine Force Pacific website, the USS Michigan carries more than 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

They are capable of precision strikes against North Korea's nuclear facilities, but the South Korean Navy called the visit "routine" and said the submarine would not take part in any joint exercises.

North Korea's Rodong Sinmun - the official mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea - warned yesterday of dire consequences in the event of a US-led pre-emptive strike.

It promised "the most brutal punishment... in the sky and land as well as at sea and from underwater without any warning or prior notice".

Meanwhile, top nuclear envoys from Japan, South Korea and the US met yesterday in Tokyo and vowed "stern action" against any fresh North Korean provocations. - AFP

North KoreaSouth Koreaunited states