Could tensions turn into war in North Korea?

North Korea's KCNA news agency said on Wednesday leader Kim Jong Un had supervised the country's "largest-ever" live-fire drill to mark the 85th founding anniversary of its military, with more than 300 large-calibre, self-propelled artillery guns demonstrating their fire power at an event on its east coast. In the meantime the top US military officer in the Pacific says frequent demonstrations of American military might are key to keeping North Korea in check.

"Our great leaders founded and wisely led our revolutionary army, and just like that, now our respected Marshal Kim Jong Un is leading wisely, so even though the situation is tense, we are celebrating the day", said Choe Un Byol, who had come with his family to the bronze statues of the former leaders.

Among the options are returning North Korea to the USA state sponsor of terrorism blacklist, which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week was under consideration. They're used for technical and political purposes, trumpeting the regime's strength and sending messages of defiance to North Koreans and adversaries overseas.

US representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun met Tuesday with his Japanese counterpart Kenji Kanasugi and Kim Hong-kyun of South Korea.

Analysts warned against reading too much into the exercises with conventional weaponry, noting that North Korea's annual winter training cycle culminates in big exercises every year around this time.

Klug reported from Seoul, South Korea.

Harris scoffed at Chinese objections, saying he believed it was "preposterous" that Beijing would try to push South Korea against a system to defend itself, and suggested Beijing should focus on trying to influence North Korea.

North Korea's drills coincided with military exercises held by US and South Korean navies in the Yellow Sea, off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula.

"We agreed to warn North Korea to stop any additional strategic provocation and take intolerably strong punitive measures against Pyongyang if it goes ahead with such provocations", Kim Hong-kyun told reporters following his meeting with Joseph Yun of the USA and Japan's Kenji Kanasugi.

There was speculation that the regime would use the anniversary to test a longer range missile, or carry out another nuclear test - either of which the Trump administration has signalled would carry a more significant response.

Still, North Korea remains defiant despite mounting pressure from the Trump administration and, increasingly, China, to stop its missile program.

Neill said nuclear and chemical weapons could also be delivered via artillery strikes.

Michael Hayden, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, has predicted that North Korea will probably be able to hit Seattle with a nuclear weapon aboard an indigenously produced intercontinental ballistic missile. "Sarin gas doesn't have to be dropped", he said.

Japan's envoy on North Korea, Kenji Kanasugi, said he and his USA and South Korean counterparts agreed in talks in Tokyo on Tuesday that China should take a concrete role to resolve the crisis and could use an oil embargo as a tool.

Tour companies in China have reported waning interest in trips to neighboring North Korea amid safety worries and tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

Washington chose to send the ship and its attack fleet in response to a recent North Korean missile test, reflecting the growing tension in the region in recent months.

U.S. defense leaders and other top officials are to give a classified briefing on North Korea to all senators in an unusual meeting at the White House later Wednesday. "People put blindfolds on for decades, and now it's time to solve the problem", Trump said. On Monday, he invited members of the UN Security Council to the White House to urge them to prepare reinforced additional sanctions on Pyongyang.

Some analysts voiced concerns Trump was backing himself into a corner with his fierce rhetoric on North Korea, leading both countries to a point where "bad things are going to happen".

In recent days, North Korea has threatened to sink the approaching United States carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, which is finally expected to arrive in the waters off the peninsula by the end of the month, and to "cut the windpipe of United States imperialists" with an almighty sword.

  • Leroy Wright