China stands by its North Korea plan, contradicting Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

China stands by its North Korea plan, contradicting Trump

Beijing has long campaigned for a “dual-track approach” in which the United States would halt military drills in the region while North Korea would freeze its weapons programmes.

WORLD Updated: Nov 16, 2017 20:15 IST

Press Trust of India, Beijing
US President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China.
US President Donald Trump takes part in a welcoming ceremony with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China.(REUTERS)

China denied Thursday that it has abandoned its long-standing proposal to ease the North Korean nuclear crisis after US President Donald Trump suggested Beijing had agreed to drop the policy.

Beijing has long campaigned for a “dual-track approach” in which the United States would halt military drills in the region while North Korea would freeze its weapons programmes.

But Trump suggested Wednesday following his five-nation trip to Asia, which included meetings with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, that the Chinese leader had ditched the plan.

“President Xi recognizes that a nuclear North Korea is a grave threat to China,” Trump said. “And we agreed that we would not accept a so-called ‘freeze for freeze’ agreement like those that have consistently failed in the past.”

But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing’s position on the nuclear issue remained “consistent and clear-cut”.

“We think that under the current circumstances, the suspension for suspension initiative is the most realistic, feasible, fair and reasonable plan,” Geng told a news briefing when asked about Trump’s comment.

“It can not only ease the current tense situation but also solve the most pressing security concerns for all parties, provide opportunities and create conditions for resuming peace talks and find a breakthrough to get out of the stalemate,” he said.

“We hope all relevant parties can have an earnest approach and give a positive consideration to the good faith of the Chinese side,” Geng said, adding that using military force was “not an option” to resolve the crisis.

Xi is sending a special envoy, Song Tao, to North Korea on Friday. Although Song’s mission is officially to brief North Korea about China’s recent Communist Party congress, analysts say he will likely discuss the nuclear issue.

China not yet ready to invade Taiwan ???

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TAIPEI TIMES)

 

China not yet ready to invade Taiwan

By Ray Song 宋磊

Peter Enav, a former Taiwan correspondent for The Associated Press, on Tuesday last week published an article on the Web site Taiwan Sentinel, entitled: “Taiwan Under the Gun: An Urgent Call to Action,” in which he warned that the three conditions required for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to consider an attack on Taiwan are close to being fulfilled.

Enav believes that as soon as the middle of next year, China’s military will have completed its readiness to the extent where it could decide to launch an invasion of the nation.

The three major conditions, as Enav sees it, are: One, China must feel certain that the “political option for unification” is now impossible; two, China’s military must be ready and able to launch an unimpeded amphibious attack across the Taiwan Strait — and feel confident that it can crush any post-invasion resistance; and three, Beijing must believe the international fallout and economic sanctions following an invasion of Taiwan would not outweigh the gain of unifying the nation with China.

These three conditions tally with the basic criteria for an invasion that have been put forward by Beijing in the past.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has said that China would experience a political and cultural renaissance that could endure for up to 200 years. Implied within this overall goal is a timetable for the unification of Taiwan.

Looking at this timetable, China would not be ready by launch an attack on Taiwan until 2021 at the earliest. In reality, while the PLA’s Rocket Force possesses long-range missile strike capability, China’s military still lacks sufficient transport and lift capability and also still needs to first shore up its core strategic interests in the East and South China seas and further increase the strength of its forces before it can consider invading the nation.

At present, it would be difficult for the PLA to muster sufficient forces to mount a successful invasion. For these reasons, Enav’s warning that the PLA would be ready to attack Taiwan by next year seems somewhat alarmist.

Furthermore, as the recent high-level economic dialogue between the US and China shows, the two countries are still at loggerheads on trade, as they have been for some time.

Economic issues never exist in isolation but are invariably part of a wider political, military and diplomatic picture. If the trade dispute between the US and China is not resolved and the relationship sours, Washington would use the prospect of warships from the US military’s Pacific Fleet forces stopping over in Taiwan to deter Beijing.

US President Donald Trump recently approved a plan by the Pentagon that allows the US Navy to conduct full-year passages through international waters in the South China Sea illegally claimed by China as its own.

The White House clearly intends to use freedom of navigation as a means to respond to Beijing’s sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. It is also clear that containment of China has already become established US policy. The US would not easily allow the PLA to attack Taiwan.

The US is still the only superpower and, while willing to cooperate with Beijing in many areas, Washington is increasingly wary of China and employs military and diplomatic means to contain it. Competition between the two nations is intensifying, which could benefit Taiwan.

2 Women Lost at Sea for 5 Months Survived Shark Attacks and Storms

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

‘Horrific.’ 2 Women Lost at Sea for 5 Months Survived Shark Attacks and Storms

7:41 AM ET

Two American women and their dogs were rescued this week by the United States Navy, after being adrift in the Pacific Ocean for five months.

Their engine had failed while attempting to sail from Hawaii to Tahiti. The women endured two separate shark attacks, with their boat surrounded at one point by seven sharks slapping their tails against the hull, they told reporters Thursday night on a conference call, in remarks reported by ABC NewsThe Guardian and other news outlets.

“We thought it was lights out, and they were horrific,” one of the mariners, Jennifer Appel, said of the shark attacks after being rescued Wednesday.

They also said they survived two major storms, the first of which lasted for two days, with 25-foot waves and hurricane force winds flooding the boat’s engine leaving the two of them to rely on the boat’s sail alone for the next five months. They had packed enough dried food for a year, but had another close call when Appel fixed their broken water purifier with only a gallon of clean water left on the boat.

Appel, an experienced sailor, was accompanied on the trip by her friend Natasha Fuiava, a sailing novice, and their dogs, Valentine and Zeus. The women, both from Honolulu, Hawaii, were spotted 900 miles south-east of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel, which alerted Guam’s coastguard.

They were rescued by the USS Ashland the following day. “They saved our lives,” Appel said. “The pride and smiles we had when we saw [them] on the horizon was pure relief.”

The Navy said the women had received medical attention and would remain on the USS Ashland until its next port of call.

“The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation,” Commander Steven Wasson, the Ashland’s commanding officer, said in a statement.

US Navy warship collides with cargo ship off coast of Japan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

US Navy warship collides with cargo ship off coast of Japan

The USS Fitzgerald was involved in a collision with a merchant vessel while operating off the coast of Japan and there have been injuries, according to a statement Friday from the U.S. military.

The Japanese Coast Guard has arrived on the scene, about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

Live footage shot from a helicopter Saturday morning by Japanese broadcaster NHK showed heavy damage to the mid-right side of the Navy ship, which appeared to be stationary in the water. People were standing on various parts of the deck.

The collision occured at approximately 2:30 a.m. local time on June 17.

Three compartments aboard the guided-missile destroyer are flooded, according to a Pentagon official.

“There is no danger of the ship sinking,” one official told Fox News.

There are plans to tow the US warship back to Yokosuka, Japan
home to a US Navy base.

The incident will be investigated.

Fitzgerald, a guided-missile destroyer, carries Tomahawk cruise missiles and missiles capable of shooting down ballistic missiles, part of the regions ballistic missile defense program.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

The Navy Is Considering Calling Up The USS Kitty Hawk Amid Fleet Expansion Pressure

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TASK AND PURPOSE)

uss kitty hawk navy trump header photo

GEAR & TECH
The Navy Is Considering Calling Up The USS Kitty Hawk Amid Fleet Expansion Pressure

on June 9, 2017

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When President Donald Trump railed against the electromagnetic catapult on the Navy’s brand new USS Gerald Ford and demanded a return to “goddamned steam,” we’re not sure this is what he had in mind.

As part of the daunting and ridiculously expensive task of boosting its 275-ship fleet to 355 hulls in the coming years, the Navy is exploring ways to coax retired and mothballed ships into sailing the open seas again. And while Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. Thomas Moore floated the idea of reactivating a flotilla of Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, he also offered a puzzling possibility: the return of the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), one of the military’s last conventionally powered aircraft carriers in service when decommissioned in 2009.

“Of the carriers that are in inactive status right now, Kitty Hawk is the one that you could think about,” Moore said in a June 1 interview with DefAero report. “The carriers are pretty old, so I think there’s limited opportunity in the inactive fleet to bring those back, but we’re going to go look at that ship by ship and put that into the mix.”

The first and last carrier of its class, Kitty Hawk has a long and illustrious history. Commissioned in 1961, the 82,000-ton supercarrier’s 18 deployments included six tours in Vietnam War’s, including one during the infamous Tet Offensive; providing contingency operations during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis; supporting U.S.-led coalition forces in Somalia and Iraq in the early 90s; and playing a central role in the early years of the Global War on Terror supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Decommissioned just weeks after her 48th birthday, there’s a good reason the Kitty Hawk earned the nickname “Battle Cat.”

But the Kitty Hawk also has another nickname: “Shitty Kitty,” a term of endearment among many of her former sailors due to the aging vessel’s frequent breakdowns. In Richard Miller’s “A Carrier at War: On Board the USS Kitty Hawk in the Iraq War,” a Navy vet turned photojournalist laid out the carrier’s many problems: “This boat’s old. Old pipes, too many coats of paint, too many welds and re-welds. She’s been around too long. Lots of sailors don’t like her. She’s a pain in the ass to clean and too damned expensive to run.”

This reputation isn’t totally unwarranted: the Kitty Hawk suffered several major breakdowns and technical problems in her first decade of service, culminating in a December 1973 jet fuel blaze during routine maintenance on the ship’s oil systems that left six crewmen dead.

While the honor of “Shitty Kitty” is often overshadowed in the media by the 1972 “race riot” between black and white sailors during the carrier’s Vietnam deployment, perpetual maintenance and frequent accidents have remained a pillar of the ship’s identity. One former crewman even characterized the Kitty Hawk in 2017 as “a punishment ship” for less-than-orderly sailors, complete with “its own CDC disease in the form of ‘Kitty Hawk Gastro.’”

With these problems in mind, the prospect of the “Shitty Kitty’s” return to the Navy’s fleet seems trifling compared to the potential return of the Perry-class frigates, which Maritime Executive characterizes as “notoriously hard to sink”:

USS Stark survived two Exocet missiles fired by an Iraqi warplane in 1987, and USS Samuel B. Roberts managed to stay afloat after striking an Iranian mine the following year, despite severe damage. Both vessels were repaired and returned to service. In a live-fire exercise in 2016, the decommissioned USS Thatch absorbed four Harpoon anti-ship missiles; one Maverick missile; multiple Hellfire missiles; one 2,000 lb. bomb; one 500 lb. bomb; and one Mk. 48 torpedo. She stayed afloat for 12 hours (with calm weather, and without fuel or munitions aboard).

But there’s still certainly good reason to wave aside the Hawks’ potential issues. As the War Zone points out, reactivating the supercarrier might prove a useful bridge between the Navy’s current fleet of 10 operation carriers until the USS Gerald Ford is ready for the open seas, both closing the so-called “carrier gap” in the branch’s global deployments, especially with the Department of Defense’s increasing emphasis on fielding more high-tech aircraft to carry out strikes against enemy targets.

But more importantly, reactivating the “Shitty Kitty” might satiate Trump’s demand for a total of 12 seaworthy airbases to project U.S. power across the planet, despite distaste for the vessel among sailors. After all, the four catapults used to assist aircraft on Kitty Hawk-class carriers are all goddamned steam, all the time — just what the Pentagon needs to scare the bejesus out of China.

North Korea surprises with display of new missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

North Korea surprises with display of new missiles

Story highlights

  • Intercontinental ballistic missile-sized canisters among bevy of new missiles
  • Display comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels

(CNN) North Korea put its adversaries on notice Saturday, when it showed off a bevy of new missiles and launchers at its annual military parade.

Pyongyang showed off two new intercontinental ballistic missile-sized canisters as well as displaying its submarine-launched ballistic missile and a land-based version of the same for the first time, according to analysts.
If North Korea has ICBMs, it could give it the ability to strike targets in the mainland US and Europe. The shorter range ballistic missiles displayed Saturday, meanwhile, are a threat to countries in the Asian region.
North Korea’s display comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula have spiked to alarming levels.

 

The US Navy dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group to the region last weekend, and US President Donald Trump has been tweeting this week that if China can’t rein in North Korea’s nuclear program the US will.
“The Vinson was sent out to make a statement. North Korea responded by showing off the most new missile hardware we’ve ever seen in a parade before,” said Melissa Hanham, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California.
One of the biggest surprises of Saturday’s military parade in Pyongyang was two mobile canisters that could contain ICBMs larger than anything North Korea has ever produced.
“They both probably design concepts. We’ve never seen them in the wild,” Hanham said.
“We don’t know what — if anything — was inside the canisters since North Korea hasn’t publicly shown off or tested any missile of that size before,” analyst Ankit Panda wrote on The Diplomat.
“We can infer given the size of the canister and the fact that it was paraded on Saturday that Pyongyang wants the world to know that it is actively working toward at least two types of solid-fuel, canisterized ICBMs,” Panda wrote.
The fact that any new ICBM would be in a canister is important because it means those missiles would likely be solid-fueled, analysts said.
Solid-fueled missiles can be deployed faster and hidden better from satellite detection than their liquid-fueled counterparts.
And the large size also means the missiles could have a longer range.

‘A message to the United States’

“It certainly appears to be a message to the United States that they’re capable of threatening the US homeland. That’s certainly their objective,” Adam Mount, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told CNN.
Hanham said other land and submarine-launched ballistic missiles were shown in public for the first time Saturday. The land-based version is known as the KN-15, while Pyongyang’s submarine-launched weapon is known as the KN-11 missile.
She took special note of the launcher the KN-15 was on.
“It uses caterpillar treads which means it can go off road more easily, which mean they can hide them more easily,” Hanham said.
North Korea has under 500 miles of paved roads, Panda wrote, and previous wheeled-launchers could risk damage to the missile operating off those.
Hanham said the tracked launch vehicles were made in North Korea, which means Pyongyang did not have to break sanctions imposed by China to obtain them.
Despite all the displays on Saturday, analysts cautioned against overreaction, noting that North Korea’s missile tests have had a checkered record of success, and adding that a missile in a parade does not necessarily mean it’s operational.

China says North Korea tension has to be stopped from reaching ‘irreversible’ stage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

China says North Korea tension has to be stopped from reaching ‘irreversible’ stage

By Dominique Patton and Sue-Lin Wong | BEIJING/PYONGYANG

China said on Friday tension over North Korea had to be stopped from reaching an “irreversible and unmanageable stage” as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region amid fears the North may conduct a sixth nuclear weapons test.

Concerns have grown since the U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack, raising questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans for North Korea, which has conducted missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. and unilateral sanctions.

The United States has warned that a policy of “strategic patience” is over. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Korea on Sunday on a long-planned 10-day trip to Asia.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally and neighbor which nevertheless opposes its weapons program, has called for talks leading to a peaceful resolution and the decentralization of the Korean peninsula.

“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing.

“Force cannot solve the problem, dialogue can be the only channel to resolve the problem.”

North Korea for its part denounced the United States for bringing “huge nuclear strategic assets” to the region.

A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Disarmament and Peace issued a statement condemning the United States for its attack on the Syrian airfield.

“The U.S. introduces into the Korean peninsula, the world’s biggest hotspot, huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the peninsula and pushing the situation there to the brink of a war,” the North’s KCNA news agency said on Friday, citing the statement.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to people cheering during an opening ceremony of a newly constructed residential complex in Ryomyong street in Pyongyang, North Korea April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

“This has created a dangerous situation in which a thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment.”

North Korea, still technically at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, has on occasion conducted missile or nuclear tests to coincide with big political events and often threatens the United States, South Korea and Japan.

On Saturday, it marks the “Day of the Sun”, the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung.

WITH OR WITHOUT YOU

While Trump has put North Korea on notice that he will not tolerate any more provocation, U.S. officials have said his administration is focusing its strategy on tougher economic sanctions.

Trump said on Thursday North Korea was a problem that “will be taken care of” and he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping would “work very hard” to help resolve it.

Trump has also said the United States is prepared to tackle the crisis without China, if necessary.

He diverted the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its strike group towards the Korean peninsula last weekend in a show of force. (tmsnrt.rs/2p1yGTQ)

The dollar fell on Friday against a basket of currencies, on track for a losing week as tension over North Korea underpinned the perceived safe-haven Japanese yen.

Media in Japan said the government confirmed it would take all precautions in the face of possible North Korean provocations.

The Nikkei business daily said government discussions included how to rescue the estimated 57,000 Japanese citizens in South Korea as well as how to cope with a possible flood of North Korean refugees coming to Japan, among whom might be North Korean spies and agents.

In Pyongyang, retired soldier Ho Song Chol told Reuters that North Korea would win should there be any conflict with the United States.

“We don’t think about other things, we just live in our belief that we will win as long as our Supreme Leader is with us,” Ho said, referring to Kim Jong Un.

Kang Gil-won, a 26-year-old graduate living in Seoul, said his biggest concern was not North Korea, but finding work in a tough job market.

“There’s no concern that war is going to break out tomorrow,” he told Reuters at a “study café” where many young job seekers prepare for interviews.

“Getting a job is a war that I feel in my bones.”

Many South Koreans, meanwhile, marked “Black Day” on Friday, but it had nothing to do with worry about North Korea.

Black Day is a day for singles, marked by eating “jajangmyeon”, a noodle dish topped with a thick sauce made of black beans. It’s celebrated by singles as a response to “White Day”, an Asian Valentine’s Day which falls a month earlier, on March 14.

(Additional reporting by Nick Macfie, James Pearson and Ju-min Park in SEOUL, Natalie Thomas in Pyongyang, Linda Sieg in TOKYO and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence To Travel To South Korea, Japan And Hawaii This Weekend

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) Amid increasing tension with North Korea, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to South Korea Saturday, on a scheduled trip as part of his first official visit to the Asia-Pacific region.

The trip comes at a critical moment for the Trump administration and US allies, after escalated posturing from North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and growing concerns that the country may mark its most important holiday on Saturday with its sixth nuclear test.
Along with his visit to Seoul, the vice president’s tour will also include stops in Tokyo, Jakarta, Sydney and Hawaii. According to a White House foreign policy adviser, the trip is intended as a chance for Pence to lay out the administration’s policies to US allies in the region, and to offer an opportunity for him to develop personal relationships with government and business leaders.
North Korea tensions
  • Kim Jong Un shows symbol of strength
  • Nuclear test site ‘primed and ready’
Commitment will be the key message the vice president brings to US allies in the Asia-Pacific — both on security and the economy. Officials say the primary goal of the trip will be to reinforce regional security alliances. To this end, Pence will meet with the acting President of South Korea, Hwang Kyo-ahn, to reinforce the US commitment to consult with South Korea over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
Security will almost certainly be a key point in discussions with Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who said Thursday that North Korea may now may have the capability to deliver missiles equipped with sarin nerve gas.

Japanese PM issues warning about North Korea

 Japanese PM issues warning about North Korea 01:16

Along with a commitment to security, Pence will stress the Trump administration’s commitment to economic engagement in the region, and according to officials, communicate that the withdrawal from the Transpacific Trade Partnership should not be seen as a retreat.
In Tokyo, Pence and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso will kick off the US-Japanese economic dialogue, which was first announced in February during Abe’s visit to the White House.
According to officials, these discussions between the vice president and Japanese leaders will be more about establishing a framework for future discussions, rather than delving into specific industries or working out a bilateral trade agreement.
The tour will also offer the vice president the opportunity to spend time with US troops abroad. In Tokyo, Pence will deliver remarks aboard the USS Ronald Reagan and will also visit troops in South Korea and Hawaii.
The trip comes as the tenuous stability of the region is resonating for the Trump administration. The Pentagon recently deployed a US naval strike group to the region in response to last week’s missile test by North Korea.

USS Carl Vinson heads to Korean Peninsula

 USS Carl Vinson heads to Korean Peninsula 01:18

And, in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, President Trump said he would be willing to make concessions on trade with China in exchange for their help deterring North Korea. “That’s worth having not as good a trade deal as I would normally be able to make,” said the President.
During a meeting at the White House on Thursday, Trump said that North Korea “is a problem” that will be “taken care of.”
Now, this upcoming trip will offer Pence the opportunity to deliver that message to the region in person.

China’s President Xi Jinping, U.S. President Trump Discuss N. Korea’s Dictator By Phone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) China called for a “peaceful” resolution to tensions on the Korean Peninsula Wednesday, as a United States aircraft carrier strike group churned towards the contested region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the situation in North Korea and Syria with US President Donald Trump in a telephone call on Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said, in what one analyst described as a “new phase” of China-US relations on North Korea.
“I think at this point the common interest between the US and China outweigh (North Korea saber-rattling),” Alexander Neill, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, told CNN.

Trump & Xi's North Korea problem

Trump & Xi’s North Korea problem
“China may be prepared to do some sort of trade off… They want to rein in (leader) Kim Jong Un.”
Trump has repeatedly called on China to do more to rein in its unruly neighbor, which has stepped up its missile development and nuclear program since 2016.
The US dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson after the latest missile test by North Korea last week, drawing a forceful warning from Pyongyang.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said Trump and Xi had pledged to stay in close contact after their first meeting earlier this month and the phone call didn’t indicate any change in China’s position.

North Korea ‘looking for trouble’: Trump

The unexpected phone call between the two came after Trump turned to Twitter to vent his frustrations over North Korea.
“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem,” he tweeted.
“North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.,” he wrote in a second tweet.

South Korea’s President Warns That North Korea Is About To Test 6th Nuclear Weapon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS)

By Ju-min Park | SEOUL

South Korea’s acting president warned on Tuesday of “greater provocations” by North Korea as tension on the Korean peninsula rises over concern the North may conduct a test of its military hardware in coming days.

A U.S. Navy strike group led by a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is en route to the western Pacific with talk of military action by the United States gaining traction following its strikes last week against Syria.

South Korean acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn ordered the military to intensify monitoring of the North’s activities and to ensure close communication with the ally the United States.

“It is possible the North may wage greater provocations such as a nuclear test timed with various anniversaries including the Supreme People’s Assembly,” said Hwang, acting leader since former President Park Geun-hye was removed over a graft scandal.

The North convenes a Supreme People’s Assembly session on Tuesday, one of its twice-yearly sessions in which major appointments are announced and national policy goals are formally approved.

Saturday is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founding father and grandfather of current ruler, Kim Jong Un.

A military parade is expected in the North’s capital, Pyongyang, to mark the day. North Korea often also marks important anniversaries with tests of its nuclear or missile capabilities.

The North’s foreign ministry, in a statement carried by its KCNA news agency earlier on Tuesday, said the U.S. navy strike group’s move near the Korean peninsula showed America’s “reckless moves for invading had reached a serious phase”.

“We never beg for peace but we will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms and keep to the road chosen by ourselves,” an unidentified ministry spokesman said.

SANCTIONS WARNING

Delegates from around the North have been arriving in Pyongyang ahead of the assembly session. They visited statues of previous leaders Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il, state media reported.

North Korea is emerging as one of the most pressing foreign policy problems facing the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.

The Trump administration is reviewing its policy toward North Korea and has said all options are on the table, including military strikes.

The U.S. Navy strike group Carl Vinson canceled a planned trip to Australia and was moving toward the western Pacific Ocean near the Korean peninsula as a show of force, a U.S. official told Reuters over the weekend.

Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, met in Florida last week and Trump pressed Xi to do more to curb North Korea’s nuclear program.

China and South Korea agreed on Monday to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carried out nuclear or long-range missile tests, a senior official in Seoul said.

As well as the anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth, there are several other North Korean anniversaries in April that could be opportunities for weapon tests, South Korean officials have said.

The North is seen ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test at any time, with movements detected by satellites at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

(Editing by Jack Kim, Robert Birsel)

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