[Newsmaker] S. Korea closely watching N. Korea for signs of provocations on founding anniversary

By Yonhap
  • Published : Sept 9, 2017 - 11:56
  • Updated : Sept 9, 2017 - 16:03

South Korea's military is watching North Korea closely for signs of provocations, officials said Saturday, amid concern the regime could undertake a missile launch or even another nuclear test on its founding anniversary.

The anniversary, which marks the 1948 establishment of the North's communist government, comes about a week after it carried out its sixth nuclear test and claimed the device was a hydrogen bomb designed to fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. 

A file photo of Kim Jong-un, dated Sept. 3 (KCNA-Yonhap)

Concerns have risen that the North could carry out additional provocations to mark the anniversary as the regime has often timed major provocations with important anniversaries, including the founding anniversary, one of the most celebrated holidays.

Military officials in South Korea said that no signs have been detected yet to suggest a missile launch or other provocations are imminent. But they also pointed out that the North could fire ballistic missiles at any time from mobile launchers, known as transporter erector launchers.

"Our assessment is that the North can carry out a nuclear test at tunnel 3 or 4 of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site," a government official said on customary condition of anonymity. The official also said the North could choose the founding anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party, which falls on Oct. 10, to conduct a provocation.

In an editorial marking the anniversary, the Rodong Sinmun, the North's main state newspaper, said that nuclear weapons make the country more secure, and that the country should develop more cutting-edge weapons and continue breakthroughs, such as its test-firings of ICBMs in July.

In response to the North's sixth nuclear test, the US, South Korea and others have been pushing for a new package of powerful sanctions on the North, including banning crude oil supplies to the country and freezing the assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The US officially asked the UN Security Council to vote on a draft sanctions resolution Monday. The proposal calls for imposing an oil embargo on the North, freezing assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and banning textile exports from the North.

Experts say the North could wait and see how the vote goes before carrying out additional provocations. (Yonhap)