While preparations for North Korea's celebration of the "Day of the Sun" have already started early on Saturday morning local time, appropriately enough under a light rain...
... with North Koreans placing flower baskets and bouquets below portraits of founder president Kim Il Sung on Friday, showing little sign of concern despite fears the reclusive nation may conduct a nuclear test and the United States would retaliate, the state news agency KCNA kept tensions high after it quoted North Korea's General Staff, who warned that the country would strike military bases in Japan and South Korea, as well as the South Korean president’s residence in Seoul, if America engages in aggression - preemptive or otherwise - against Pyongyang.
The following map courtesy of @CT_operative shows the effective strike range of North Korean weapons should it retaliate.
As Reuters reported earlier, North Korea’s military promised to “ruthlessly ravage” the US if the American aircraft carrier group that is currently on its way to the region takes aggressive action.
“Our toughest counteraction against the US and its vassal forces will be taken in such a merciless manner as not to allow the aggressors to survive,” a statement from the military said.
“The Trump administration, which made a surprise guided cruise-missile strike on Syria on April 6, has entered the path of open threat and blackmail,” the statement added.
The General Staff also noted that US military bases in the Pacific, Guam, the island of Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of US troops in Japan, as well as the US mainland, are all within reach of North Korea’s strategic missiles.
Earlier on Friday, South Korea warned North Korea against engaging in any “provocation,” such as a nuclear or missile test, to mark the ‘Day of the Sun’, the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s state founder Kim Il Sung, which the country will celebrate on Saturday. The speculations were fueled further when Pyongyang invited 200 foreign journalists from various media outlets, including CNN, AP, and Japan’s NHK, for “a big and important event.”
Also on Friday, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, warned that tensions between the US and North Korea had escalated to such a point that “a military conflict may start at any moment.”
“Lately, tensions have risen,” Wang said, adding “if a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner.” The Chinese FM called for the crisis to be solved through diplomacy, adding that if one of the sides provokes a conflict, it “will have to accept historic responsibility and pay the relevant price.”
As discussed here on Thursday night, NBC reported that that two American destroyers armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles are positioned some 480 kilometers from North Korea’s nuclear test site. America is contemplating a preemptive strike if it becomes “convinced” that a nuclear detonation by the North is imminent, multiple senior US intelligence officials told NBC News. It was not clear what signs the US would be looking for.
On Thursday, Trump said North Korea is a problem that “will be taken care of,” while expressing hope that China will “work very hard” to help Washington in solving it. The tensions on the Korean Peninsula were extensively discussed during the US leader’s talks with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.
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So what happens next? At this moment, all eyes are on Pyongyang and whether Kim Jong-Un will unleash the nuclear test many believe is coming, escalating the North Korean crisis to its next stage.