Peaceful outcome for Korean peninsula still possible - Pence

SEOUL/BEIJING South Korea said on Friday it was on heightened alert ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.

Denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula can still be achieved peacefully because of Washington's new engagement with China, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday, despite growing fears North Korea could soon conduct a new nuclear test.

US officials have also said there was an increased level of activity by Chinese bombers, signalling a possible heightened state of readiness.

USA officials have been saying for weeks that North Korea could soon stage another nuclear bomb test, something both the United States and China have both warned against.

South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said on Friday all those military exercises meant there was a lot of military equipment gathered in North Korea, as well as the South.

President Donald Trump in Washington and Pence at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea have signaled a forceful USA stance on North Korea's recent actions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered a major military reshuffle as tensions with North Korea rise. That two-week window overlaps with North Korea's military foundation day on April 25.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stressed that the burden is on North Korea to prevent an escalation.

These recent steps by the Chinese are assessed as part of an effort to "reduce the time to react to a North Korea contingency".

Following repeated North Korean missile tests that drew worldwide criticism, China in February banned all imports of coal from its reclusive neighbour, cutting off its most important export product.

While Trump gave no indication of what the moves might be, USA officials told Reuters that the United States was aware of a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signalling a possible heightened state of readiness.

It was the fifth statement the council has adopted on North Korea this year, all with Chinese support.

"(What) the regime in North Korea should make no mistake about, is that the United States has the resources, the personnel and the presence in this region of the world to see to our interests and to see to the security of those interests and our allies", Mr Pence said. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Lu Kang, a spokesman of the ministry, said at a briefing, "China objects to any words that could heighten tensions since the current situation on the Korean Peninsula is highly complicated and sensitive".

An official Chinese newspaper said there was optimism about persuading North Korea to end its pursuit of a nuclear programme without the use of force, "now that even the once tough-talking Donald Trump is onboard for a peaceful solution".

There was a similar discussion in 1994, when North Korea threatened to go nuclear, sparking talk of surgical strikes.

Earlier this year, China called on the USA and North Korea to give up something to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

'When the performance was over, all the performers and participants in the military parade broke into enthusiastic cheers of "hurrah!",' state run KCNA news agency said, according to the Daily Mail. It blew up nearly immediately.

  • Leroy Wright