Marking the 85th anniversary of the founding of their military, North Korea conducted large-scale live-fire drills near the town of Wonsan, located on the eastern coast, which was said to be observed by the nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
The live-fire exercise included the firing of over 300 large-caliber pieces of artillery as well as submarine torpedo launches targeting mock enemy warships. As reported by Reuters, throughout the event, South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff monitored the event, “firmly maintaining readiness” while the South Korean navy conducted a live-fire exercise of its own with US destroyers. The South Korean exercise took place to the west of the Korean peninsula.
Crowds gathered in Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, paying their respects by laying flowers and other gifts at the base of statues commemorating former leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong II. One day prior to the event, the North Korean minister of defense stated that they were prepared to use pre-emptive strikes and other measures to defend against the “US imperialists.”
Speaking at a “national meeting,” General Pak Yong Sik said, “The situation prevailing on the Korean Peninsula is so tense that a nuclear war may break out due to the frantic war drills of the US imperialists and their vassal forces of aggression.
The North Korean military exercise coincided with the arrival of a US guided-missile submarine to the sea near South Korea, as well as the meeting of envoys from the US, Japan, and South Korea in Tokyo. The nations gathered for the expressed purpose of discussing the rising threat posed by the North Korean nuclear weapons and missiles program.
US President Donald Trump has asserted his intentions to prevent North Korea from developing a nuclear missile that could impact the United States, going as far as to state a military strike against the nation is on the table. While Trump directed the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier strike group, to the Korean peninsula for joint exercises with South Korea, US officials say that sanctions are the preferred option over a military strike.
North Korea typically marks significant events with demonstrations of their military capability, such as the launch of a missile the day after the 105th birthday of Kim Il Sung, the late former leader of the nation.
Experts originally believe North Korea would conduct a ballistic missile launch or nuclear test to mark the event, though neither occurred.