Saturday, 22 April 2017

US tanks spotted in South Korea


US tanks and other military hardware spotted at Noryangjin Station, South Korea heading North-East



21 April, 2017

US tanks and other military hardware spotted at Noryangjin Station, South Korea heading North-East 📷

South Korea said on Friday it was on heightened alert ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.


U.S. officials said there was a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signalling a possible heightened state of readiness by reclusive North Korea’s sole major ally, although the officials played down concern and left open a range of possible reasons. Beijing denied its aircraft were on an increased level of alert.

In Russia, the RIA news agency said a Kremlin spokesman declined to comment on media reports Russia was moving military hardware and troops towards the border with North Korea.

U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test in violation of United Nations sanctions, something both the United States and China have warned against.

South Korea on heightened alert as North Korea readies for army anniversary



21 April, 2017

South Korea was on heightened alert on Friday ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.

North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday, as it concludes winter military drills at the same time as U.S. and South Korean exercises running until the end of April, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said.

"It is a situation where a lot of exercise equipment is amassed in North Korea and also a lot of strategic assets are situated on the Korean peninsula because of the South Korea-U.S. military drills," Lee told a briefing.

"We are closely watching the situation," he said, adding that South Korea would not let its guard down.

North Korea said on Friday the state of affairs on the Korean peninsula was "extremely perilous" because of "madcap American nuclear war maneuvers aimed at trampling on our sovereignty and right to survival."

Tensions have risen sharply in recent months after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests. U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.

South Korean acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn told top officials on Thursday that given the April 25 anniversary, there were concerns that North Korea "can make another provocation again at any time."

New satellite imagery analyzed by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, found some activity under way at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, but said it was unclear whether the site was in a "tactical pause" ahead of another test or was carrying out normal operations.

"Regardless, satellite imagery continues to indicate that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site appears able to conduct a sixth nuclear test at any time once the order is received from Pyongyang," 38 North said in an analysis on Friday.

U.S. officials said there was a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signaling a possible heightened state of readiness by reclusive North Korea's sole major ally, although the officials played down concern and left open a range of possible reasons. Beijing denied its aircraft were on an increased level of alert.

The Russian military on Friday denied media reports that it was building up its forces near the border with North Korea, the Interfax news agency reported, citing an army spokesman. Moscow said military movements seen by residents there were part of pre-planned exercises.

U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test in violation of United Nations sanctions, something the United States, China and others have warned against.

On Thursday, Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in "the menace of North Korea", after North Korean state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty preemptive strike."

"UNUSUAL MOVES"

By Ju-min Park and Ben Blanchard | SEOUL/BEIJING
South Korea was on heightened alert on Friday ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.

North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People's Army on Tuesday, as it concludes winter military drills at the same time as U.S. and South Korean exercises running until the end of April, South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said.

"It is a situation where a lot of exercise equipment is amassed in North Korea and also a lot of strategic assets are situated on the Korean peninsula because of the South Korea-U.S. military drills," Lee told a briefing.

"We are closely watching the situation," he said, adding that South Korea would not let its guard down.

North Korea said on Friday the state of affairs on the Korean peninsula was "extremely perilous" because of "madcap American nuclear war maneuvers aimed at trampling on our sovereignty and right to survival."

Tensions have risen sharply in recent months after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests. U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.

South Korean acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn told top officials on Thursday that given the April 25 anniversary, there were concerns that North Korea "can make another provocation again at any time."

New satellite imagery analyzed by 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, found some activity under way at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, but said it was unclear whether the site was in a "tactical pause" ahead of another test or was carrying out normal operations.

"Regardless, satellite imagery continues to indicate that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site appears able to conduct a sixth nuclear test at any time once the order is received from Pyongyang," 38 North said in an analysis on Friday.

U.S. officials said there was a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signaling a possible heightened state of readiness by reclusive North Korea's sole major ally, although the officials played down concern and left open a range of possible reasons. Beijing denied its aircraft were on an increased level of alert.

The Russian military on Friday denied media reports that it was building up its forces near the border with North Korea, the Interfax news agency reported, citing an army spokesman. Moscow said military movements seen by residents there were part of pre-planned exercises.

U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test in violation of United Nations sanctions, something the United States, China and others have warned against.

On Thursday, Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in "the menace of North Korea", after North Korean state media warned the United States of a "super-mighty preemptive strike."

"UNUSUAL MOVES"

North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that its military was ready to respond to American aggression.

"Now that we possess mighty nuclear power to protect ourselves from U.S. nuclear threat, we will respond without the slightest hesitation to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike, and we will emerge victor in the final battle with the United States."

Trump told a news conference on Thursday, "Some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours. He said he was confident Chinese President Xi Jinping would "try very hard" to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

Trump gave no indication of what the moves might be. None of the U.S. officials who told Reuters about the heightened level of activity by Chinese bombers suggested alarm or signaled that they knew the precise reason for such activity.

In a tweet on Friday, Trump said: "China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea so, while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will."

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said, to "to maximize pressure on the North, and to ensure China's constructive role."

China's Defence Ministry said its forces on the border with North Korea were maintaining a state of normal combat preparedness and training.

Asked about Trump's comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Xi and Trump had had a full discussion about North Korea when they met this month.

"I can only say that via deep communications between China and the U.S. at various levels including at the highest levels, the U.S. now has an even fuller and more correct understanding of China's policy and position and has a more rounded understanding of China's efforts," Lu said. "We feel very gratified about this."

An official Chinese newspaper said there was optimism about persuading North Korea to end its pursuit of a nuclear program without the use of force, "now that even the once tough-talking Donald Trump is onboard for a peaceful solution."

"Beijing has demonstrated due enthusiasm for Washington's newfound interest in a diplomatic solution and willingness to work more closely with it," the state-run China Daily said in an editorial.

North Korea has said it will conduct nuclear and missile tests when it sees fit.

North Korea test-fired what the United States believed was a mid-range missile on Sunday. It blew up almost immediately.

Satellite Images Suggest North Korea May Have Resumed Nuclear Test Preparations

21 April, 2017

Satellite images of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site from April 19 indicate that North Korea may have resumed preparations for a possible imminent nuclear test.

According to 38 North, a North Korea analysis program at the Johns Hopkins University, probable trailers have been spotted near the North Portal, the tunnel that North Korea appears to have been preparing for a nuclear test. While no recent dumping is observed, there are at least five mining carts along the tracks leading to the spoil pile and one probable small equipment trailer adjacent to the support building. A net canopy remains in place, presumably concealing equipment, and the pumping of water out of the tunnel to maintain an environment optimal for instrumentation and stemming seems to have ceased.

Figure 1. Probable trailers observed near the North Portal.

At the Main Administrative Area, no volleyball games are observed, but the outline of the court in the north courtyard is still visible. There is a small truck or van present in the south courtyard along with several unidentified objects and activities. While the imagery is not high enough resolution to determine what these objects are, some may be supplies or equipment with tarps or netting draped over them.


Figure 2. Several unidentified objects and activities observed at the Main Administrative Area.

No activity of significance is noted at the West Portal, South Portal, Command Center Area or elsewhere in the facility.
As 38 North concludes, "It is unclear if the noted activity represents a “tactical pause” before a forthcoming nuclear test, a broader more prolonged “stand down” from testing or normal facility operations. Regardless, satellite imagery continues to indicate that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site appears able to conduct a sixth nuclear test at any time once the order is received from Pyongyang."

As a reminder, earlier today Reuters reported that South Korea was on a heightened state of alert ahead of a major army event in the North, set for next Tuesday, April 25.
"Although North Korea attempted a missile launch but failed on April 16, considering the April 25 anniversary of the Korean People's Army, there are concerns that it can make another provocation again at any time," South Korea's acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn told top officials on Thursday.
Also worth noting: April 25 is when the USS Carl Vinson is scheduled to finally arrive off the coast of the Korean Penninsula.


Japanese destroyers join US strike group amid tensions on Korean Peninsula

Japanese destroyers join US strike group amid tensions on Korean Peninsula


RT,
21 April, 2017

Two Japanese Navy destroyers have joined the carrier strike group ‘USS Carl Vinson’ heading towards the Korean Peninsula for a massive show of force as North Korea prepares to mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its military.

The Japanese warships, destroyers ‘Ashigara’ and ‘Samidare’, left the navy’s Sasebo base early on Friday for a rendezvous with the ‘USS Carl Vinson’ group off North Korean shores, NHK reports.

Defense Ministry officials said the details of the joint US-Japan naval exercise are yet to be determined. The drill comes as an apparent show of force aimed at deterring North Korea, which will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its military next week.

Though little is known about the naval exercise, the event was announced by the Japanese Navy earlier last week.

Japan wants to dispatch several destroyers as the ‘Carl Vinson’ enters the East China Sea,” said one of the Japanese military sources, as cited by Reuters.
The source added that the drills would involve helicopter landings on both American and Japanese ships as well as communications training.

The American strike group includes Nimitz-class aircraft carrier ‘USS Carl Vinson’ with her air wing, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers ‘USS Wayne E. Meyer’ and ‘USS Michael Murphy’, as well as Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser ‘USS Lake Champlain’.

The strike group will operate in the region under the operational control of the 3rd Fleet as part of the 3rd Fleet Forward initiative, according to the US Navy. 

Its arrival to the Western Pacific was marked by a string of conflicting statements from the White House and the Pentagon. Last week, US President Donald Trump told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that “we are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful – far more powerful than the aircraft carrier.”

The news, however, was downplayed by US military officials after it emerged that the strike group was heading to Australia instead of the Korean Peninsula. Some American media reported that the USS Carl Vinson and her escort ships were operating near Indonesia.

Earlier this week, a senior White House official accused the military of misleading the president and his team about the deployment of the‘Carl Vinson’according to the Wall Street Journal.

Defense Secretary James Mattis provided a rather vague statement, saying: “The Vinson, as I’ve said on the record, was operating up and down the western Pacific … And that is, we’re shifting her, instead of continuing one direction as she pulled out of Singapore she’s going to continue part of our cruise down in that region, but she was on her way up to Korea.”

The latest flare-up in tension between the US and North Korea has been triggered by reports that the state was about to conduct its sixth nuclear test or fire a nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Washington threatened to solve the ‘North Korean problem’ unilaterally, arguing that Pyongyang poses a threat to US interests in the region.

North Korea said it was ready to defend itself with all means available, including weapons of mass destruction. In a series of extraordinary statements, China, North Korea’s main trading partner and ally, warned that the region was on the brink of an all-out war.

Russia, which shares a land border with the hermit state, urged all parties to refrain from the use of military force


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