North keeps quiet during holiday

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North keeps quiet during holiday

North Korea did not fire any missiles on Thursday in the wake of the 64th anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War with a ceasefire, after a Pentagon source predicted last week that a test could fall in the coming days.

The North celebrates July 27 as Victory Day and the country often highlights crucial national holidays with military provocations, which is why North Korea watchers thought the regime would carry out a missile test yesterday.

An unidentified official from the U.S. Department of Defense who spoke to CNN said transporter vehicles carrying ballistic missile launching equipment were seen arriving in Kusong, North Pyongan Province, on July 21.

The official reportedly said when such equipment is seen, a launch could occur within six days.

“There are no imminent signs of a North Korean missile launch,” Roh Jae-chun, spokesman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told local reporters on Thursday.

Roh said he could not confirm a separate report from CNN that North Korea tested its submarine-launched ballistic missile technology on Tuesday.

Citing an unnamed official from the Pentagon, CNN said North Korea conducted a missile ejection test over land on Tuesday in Sinpo, a port city in South Hamgyong Province. The test was to try out the cold-launch system, which uses high pressure steam to propel a missile into the air before engine ignition, preventing damage to a submarine or submersible barge that would launch the missile, the agency reported.

One reason why Pyongyang did not carry out a missile test on Thursday could be that it rained, according to local experts, noting that missile parts are highly sensitive to humidity.

Instead, Pyongyang urged Washington to ditch its anti-North Korea policy, saying in a commentary issued through the official newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Thursday that the United States was “impossible to escape from its predefined destiny of ultimate demise.”

The only way for the United States to survive is by scrapping its hostile stance against the regime and kneeling in front of the North Korean people, the commentary continued.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang still has not given any direct response to Seoul on its offer to hold inter-Korean military talks.

The South Korean government formally asked the North on July 17 to discuss ways to cease all “acts of hostility” near the border in bilateral talks, specifically suggesting July 21 as a possible date. Seoul said it hoped the regime would agree by July 27.

A senior official from South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, said Thursday Seoul would keep waiting. The North has not responded to Seoul’s proposition to discuss a reunion for war-torn families on Aug. 1 either.

Seoul had asked Pyongyang to hold the gathering on Oct. 4, in time for the Chuseok holiday, Korea’s harvest festival. The last time a family reunion was held was in October 2015.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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