Pyongyang Celebrates Its Rocket Forces in Wake of Seoul-Washington Summit
22:21 03.07.2017(updated 22:23 03.07.2017)
While Americans prepare for the US' Independence Day on July 4, on the other side of the Pacific North Korea celebrated the 18th anniversary of the country's Strategic Rocket Forces with a level of restraint that has Korea watchers wondering whether the crisis could be at a turning point.
Pyongyang on Monday reiterated its warning that its projectiles will strike anywhere at the discretion of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, while prominent North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun celebrated the "beloved" Rocket Force as the "pride and power" of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The unit is responsible for the country's "reliable nuclear force," which Stanford University professor Siegfried Hecker estimates to be comprised of more than two dozen nuclear warheads.
A study by the Korea Economic Institute of America forecasted Pyongyang would test its missile program roughly every two weeks for the remainder of the year, but Kim's forces held off on displaying their rockets and missiles for this year's anniversary, the Korea Times reported on Monday.
Pyongyang may be biding its time, in anticipation of Washington and Seoul's next move, the Times noted. The North's missile proliferation was a key topic during last week's meeting between newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump in Washington.
Kim and his advisers are likely mulling the best response to a joint address from Moon and Trump, which expressed that "under the right circumstances" the US administration would support "President Moon's aspirations to restart inter-Korean dialogue on issues, including humanitarian affairs."
"The two leaders called on the DPRK to refrain from provocative, destabilizing actions and rhetoric, and to make the strategic choice to fulfill its international obligations and commitments," the White House said in a June 30 release.
The allies have yet to pursue more intense military options on the Korean Peninsula. Nevertheless, on June 13 Moon reported the situation on the peninsula was "more dire than ever before."
The Strategic Rocket Force was founded in 1999, the same year Pyongyang acquired two light water nuclear reactors, the Guardian reported, noting that former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sat on the board of ABB, the engineering firm that made the reactors, from 1990-2001.
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