North could carry out big test, says Sung Kim
The anniversary, also known as the Day of the Sun, falls on April 15 and is considered North Korea’s biggest national holiday. Kim Il Sung was the grandfather of Kim Jong-un, the current North Korean leader.
In previous years, Pyongyang has celebrated the occasion with flashy military parades and missile tests. North Korean pundits say this year’s Day of the Sun holds special meaning for Pyongyang, given that it’s the 110th. The communist regime tends to give more emphasis to anniversaries ending in a five or zero.
“In terms of the upcoming anniversary and the provocation – provocative actions the DPRK may take, I don’t want to speculate too much, but I think it could be another missile launch, it could be a nuclear test,” Kim told reporters through a press call.
DPRK is short for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.
Kim didn’t specify whether his comment was based on U.S. intelligence, but stressed that he hoped the anniversary passes without such a test.
“The important thing is that we, in cooperation and coordination with our allies and partners, are prepared to deal with whatever they may undertake,” said Kim. “And I want to emphasize that we obviously hope that they will refrain from further provocation.”
He continued: “They’ve already done quite a bit this year – 13 launches.”
Kim said Washington has repeatedly offered to meet the North to discuss “any and all issues,” but that Pyongyang has continuously declined the invitation to dialogue. The reason, he said, could be the pandemic.
“It’s always hard for me to speculate on why Pyongyang does what it does or what it doesn’t do,” said Kim. “I would just speculate that given that the country has been in a complete shutdown for the past two years due to the Covid pandemic, perhaps that’s a factor in the fact that they have not responded. But I will limit my speculation to that.”
Kim’s comments about North Korea came on the same day that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about U.S. policy in the Indo-Pacific region, during which she said Washington was committed to boosting trilateral cooperation with Seoul and Tokyo. The commitment was part of Washington’s evolving security approach in response to “evolving” security threats, she said.
Sherman also mentioned her recent meeting in Washington with a South Korean delegation dispatched by President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, saying the meeting was a message to Pyongyang that they “can’t just keep doing this [raising tensions with missile launches] without any consequences.”
Sherman and the U.S.-South Korea policy consultation delegation, led by People Power Party (PPP) Rep. Park Jin, met on Monday. Yoon’s five-year presidency starts on May 10.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]