Tensions on the Korean peninsula could bet set to once again spike as reports reveals Pyongyang could be preparing another missile test ahead of joint United States and South Korea military drills.
Reports in South Korea and Japan say radar and radio signals indicate Pyongyang may be preparing another missile test. At a Tuesday briefing, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk declined to confirm any imminent test, but he said they were watching carefully.
Noh said; “Under close cooperation with our allies, such as the U.S. and Japan, our government is paying attention to the possibility of North Korea’s additional provocation and maintaining a thorough readiness posture.”
The reports come as the U.S. and South Korea are preparing a five-day joint exercise called “Vigilant Ace” from December 4-8 with thousands of military personnel and more than 230 aircraft, including six F-22 Raptor fighter jets deployed to South Korea for the first time.
Pyongyang routinely condemns such military drills using belligerent language and military threats.Russia’s envoy for the stand-off over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs says the joint U.S.-South Korea drills were preventing Pyongyang from engaging in direct talks.
At the opening of a regional conference in Seoul Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said North Korea’s “restraint” in not engaging in nuclear and missile testing since September could have already lead to dialogue.
“If Pyongyang’s demonstrated restraint over the past two months was met with similar reciprocal steps on behalf of the United States and its allies then we could have moved to the start of direct talks between the United States and North Korea,” Morgulov said according to a translation of his comments by Russia’s TASS news agency.
Morgulov noted the U.S. and South Korea were well within their rights under international law to hold military drills, whereas Pyongyang’s nuclear development was in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“However, the nuclear testing and joint military drills both have a negative impact on the current situation surrounding the Korean peninsula, without doubt,” said Morgulov.
The U.S. and South Korea say it is not clear why North Korea has refrained from provocations such as nuclear and missile testing, but they hope it will continue. The Russian envoy repeated Moscow’s support for North Korea to suspend its nuclear program, as part of a China-proposed “freeze for freeze” deal, in exchange for a halt to large-scale military drills by the U.S. and South Korea.
Washington and Seoul have dismissed a simultaneous suspension, saying Pyongyang must first show it is serious about negotiations by pausing its nuclear program.