Recently, news from the Korean Peninsula has been dominated by missiles: as satellite images confirmed, the North Koreans have been busy preparing another test launch of "BM-25 Musudan", their intermediate-range missile. The launch ended in failure, the fourth such failure in this year. Nonetheless, North Korean engineers and scientists are busy developing both long-range and submarine-based ballistic missiles, capable of hitting the United States. There has been much hype about the recent Musudan launch, but few people noticed another piece of news that came from South Korea a week earlier. A high-ranking official, speaking on condition of anonymity - but clearly authorised to make such statements - said that the South Korean navy is also developing its own submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), so the new South Korean submarines will be equipped with a launchpad.
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Monday said North Korea appeared to be readying for a fifth nuclear test in defiance of tightened UN sanctions imposed after its last test in January. "Signs that it is preparing a fifth nuclear test have recently been detected," Park told a cabinet meeting. Her remarks followed South Korean media reports in which unnamed government and intelligence officials spoke of a spike in activity at the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site. A fresh test would see Pyongyang doubling down in the face of tough sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council, and would throw down a gauntlet to the international community as it struggles to find new ways to curb the North's nuclear ambitions. North Korea is gearing up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress early next month, at which leader Kim Jong-un is expected to take credit for pushing the country's nuclear weapons programme to new heights.
North Korea warned nuclear war "may break out any moment." The comments come from the country's deputy ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Monday as the U.S. conducts joint naval exercises with South Korea. The ambassador, Kim In Ryong, delivered prepared remarks and a statement to a U.N. General Assembly meeting on nuclear disarmament. The statement had a stark warning for the U.S. "The entire U.S. mainland is within our firing range and if the U.S. dares to invade our sacred territory even an inch it will not escape our severe punishment in any part of the globe," the statement read. Kim did not deliver all parts of it aloud.
The US defence secretary warned North Korea on Friday of an "effective and overwhelming" response if Pyongyang chose to use nuclear weapons. "Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming," Defense Secretary James Mattis said on a visit to South Korea, one of America's closest allies. The remarks came as concern from its opponents mounted that North Korea could be readying a new ballistic missile test, in what could be an early diplomatic challenge for President Donald Trump's administration. Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from Seoul, said: "There is a great deal of focus as to potential change in US policy towards North Korea and towards the alliance here in South Korea as well." North Korea, which is technically still at war with the South since signing an Armistice agreement in 1953, carried out more than 20 missile tests last year, as well as two nuclear tests, in defiance of UN resolutions and sanctions.