North Korea celebrated the 80th anniversary of its military two days after threatening to turn South Korea’s capital into ashes, with a senior general claiming the totalitarian state’s weapons can defeat the U.S.
New leader Kim Jong Un, head of the 1.2 million-strong military, attended a ceremony in Pyongyang to mark the milestone, the official Korean Central State News Agency reported today. Vice Marshal Ri Yong Ho said the army has “powerful modern weapons” capable of defeating its enemies.
“We are able to continuously corner the U.S. and forcefully retaliate to the enemy’s provocative schemes for war,” Ri said, according to a transcript of his remarks from South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
The commemoration is the latest in a series of festivities surrounding the April 15 centennial of state founder Kim Il Sung’s birth. North Korea unsuccessfully fired a rocket on April 13, prompting speculation that the government will detonate an atomic device to compensate for the failure.
A North Korean military squad threatened to “soon” turn South Korean President Lee Myung Bak and his government to “ashes in three or four minutes,” according to an April 23 KCNA statement. Kim’s regime has escalated its threats of aggression against the South in the past month.
North Korea broke off an agreement to halt testing of nuclear devices and long-range missiles after the U.S. canceled food assistance in response to the botched launch. A North Korean atomic test could come as early as today, NBC News reported, citing unidentified U.S. officials.
“We strongly suggest that the North Koreans refrain from engaging in any more hostile or provocative actions,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters yesterday.
South Korea last week unveiled new cruise missiles that it said could hit anywhere in the North. The military has deployed the missiles and is preparing to ensure it can respond firmly to North Korean provocations, Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min Seok said on April 19.
Lee the same day said South Korea needs “powerful weapons, a strong mindset and the newest weapons that can overpower North Korea.” His government asked the United Nations Security Council to freeze assets of 19 North Korean institutions and organizations, Yonhap News reported, citing an unidentified person at the UN.
North Korea is already under UN sanctions after detonating nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. The Security Council censured Kim’s government after this month’s rocket launch.
North Korea’s Arsenal
North Korea’s arsenal includes Scud, Rodong and Musudan missiles. The Musudan has a range of more than 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) and can carry a 650-kilogram warhead, according to South Korean estimates. The country is trying to develop missiles with a range of 6,700 kilometers that may eventually be able to carry warheads weighing as much as 1,000 kilograms, according to U.S. and South Korean estimates.
China, North Korea’s closest ally, yesterday expressed “deep concern” over the latest developments on the Korean peninsula and called for calm.
North and South Korea technically remain at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended without a peace treaty.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in Seoul at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at email@example.com