U.S. criticizes North for missile tests as it prepares for military parade
North Korea appeared to be preparing for a military parade over the weekend, shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden criticized North Korea's recent series of ballistic missile tests on Friday (local time) during an online summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
South Korean military authorities detected signs that the reclusive regime is preparing for a military parade in the capital city of Pyongyang, ahead of key political anniversaries, a military official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.
The North celebrates the birthdays of its leader Kim Jong-un's late father and grandfather, Kim Jong-il and Kim Il Sung, on Feb. 16 and April 15. Kim Il Sung was the founder of the regime.
The official said that high levels of activity could be seen among North Korean troops and trucks at Mirim Airfield near the capital, suggesting they were gearing up for a parade.
“As there are signs of preparations for a military parade, we are paying close attention to related developments,” the military official said. “Preparations appear to be in their early stage, and it is not yet clear when exactly the North will stage the parade.”
Signs of parade preparations came shortly after the North’s state media said Thursday that the country is considering “restarting all temporarily suspended activities,” suggesting that it may end its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) testing.
That announcement by state media, coupled with South Korean intelligence on parade preparations, has heightened speculation that Pyongyang could use the celebrations to showcase more advanced weaponry in its growing arsenal of missiles.
Much to the alarm of South Korea and neighboring Japan, North Korea has conducted four missile tests in quick succession since the new year, beginning with two separate tests of what it claimed were hypersonic glide missiles on Jan. 5 and 10, followed by a test of train-launched missiles Jan. 14 and a tactical guided missile test from Sunan Airfield near Pyongyang on Jan. 17.
The flurry of missile testing activity from the North was front and center of the regional concerns discussed during Friday’s virtual summit between Biden and Kishida.
In a press release shortly after the summit, the White House said that the two leaders condemned North Korea's recent launch of ballistic missiles as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The tests also triggered a second call by the United States for a meeting of the UN Security Council to address missile launches by North Korea.
The meeting was requested by the United States, France and Britain — three of the five permanent members on the Security Council — as well as non-permanent members Mexico, Ireland and Albania.
Five countries, including China and Russia, hold permanent seats on the Security Council, which is tasked with ensuring world peace, while 10 other countries take up non-permanent seats in the council on a rotational basis.
The meeting, which took place Thursday, was the second meeting of the Security Council on the North’s recent missile tests. The previous meeting took place on Jan. 11, shortly after the North’s second test this year.
However, China and Russia delayed the U.S. effort to impose sanctions on five North Koreans at Thursday’s meeting.
During the closed-door Security Council meeting, China and Russia placed a “hold” on the U.S. proposal.
China said it needed more time to study the sanctions proposed by the United States, while Russia said more evidence was needed to back the U.S. request.
Under current United Nations procedural rules, the holding action can last for six months. Should another council member extend the delay, the proposal will be blocked from consideration for another three months before it is permanently removed from the council’s agenda.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]