Published: Fri, April 14, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Kim Jong-un oversees special forces operation as tensions soar

Prof Hayes said it was true North Korea had demonstrated nuclear weapons capabilities and had tested nuclear devices underground on five occasions, including twice past year.

The North has since said it is ready for "war" with the U.S., while speculation is mounting that it might conduct a nuclear or missile test to mark the 105th birthday anniversary of founder Kim Il-Sung on Saturday.

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that "military force can not resolve the issue", adding: "Whoever provokes the situation, whoever continues to make trouble in this place, they will have to assume historical responsibility".

"Estimates of when North Korea will be able to test a missile that has the range to hit the United States has varied, but there is an emerging consensus among experts that it will be within two years", he said. At the same time, speculation is growing that Pyongyang may be close to conducting more nuclear or missile tests, despite a raft of global sanctions punishing it over its nuclear weapons program.

"Overall, I would say that the risk of war remains low but has increased due to the possibility of mistakes, loss of control of forces, and misunderstandings", he said. Instead, the country is gearing up for its biggest holiday of the year, the 105th anniversary of the birth of the late Kim Il Sung, the country's founder and leader Kim Jong Un's grandfather.

A North Korean soldier points his weapon while standing with other soldiers in Sinuiju, North Korea. It was built in time for the 65th anniversary in 2015 of founding of North Korea's ruling Worker's Party.

The extent of North Korea's nuclear capabilities is shrouded in mystery because Kim Jong-un's regime is so secretive and isolated from the rest of the world.

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About 200 foreign journalists gathered in Pyongyang for North Korea's biggest national day, the "Day of the Sun", were taken to what officials billed as a "big and important event" early on Thursday. In 2012, it tried but failed to launch a long-range rocket carrying a satellite to mark the date and tested a newly developed intermediate-range missile previous year.

THE drums of war are banging loudly as North Korea escalates its threats against the United States.

The executive director of the Nautilus Institute in Berkeley told North Korea may not have a deliverable warhead and may not have a reliable ballistic missile delivery system with a usable re-entry vehicle.

USA officials said Trump was considering sanctions that could include an oil embargo, banning North Korea's airline, intercepting cargo ships, and punishing Chinese banks doing business with it.

Brendan Thomas-Noone, a research fellow in the Alliance 21 Program at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said the pace of North Korea's nuclear program has blindsided many analysts. Both countries station thousands of U.S. troops on their territories.

"There's a whole host of things that are possible, all the way up to what's essentially a trade quarantine on North Korea", one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters in Washington.

Han, however, said North Korea blames Trump and the US for the rising tensions. Trump has put North Korea on notice that he will not tolerate provocative actions. He said later on Wednesday the United States was prepared to tackle the crisis without China, if necessary.

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