World

North Korea Threatens Weekly Missile Tests

| by Alex Scarr

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continued to escalate April 17 after North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol said the country would start weekly missile tests.

Han was responding to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's comments April 16 when Pence said the "era of strategic patience" with North Korea is over. Pence has also warned North Korea to not "test" the U.S.

"We'll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis," said Han. The country will also step up nuclear testing, reports the BBC.

North Korea has tested five nuclear missiles under leader Kim Jong Un, according to The New York Times. Intelligence in the area also believes Kim has enough raw material to create 20-25 new weapons per year.

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Both sides have threatened military intervention, with Han most recently asserting that "all-out war" would ensue if the U.S. took aggressive action in the country, according to the BBC.

Pence's most recent visit to the Korean Peninsula raised the possibility of renewed talks between the two nations.

"Mr. Trump said something interesting during his campaign -- that if necessary he could meet with Kim Jong Un and have a sandwich with him,” Yang Xiyu, a former diplomat from China, told The New York Times. "We can see that as a shortcut to solve the issue in a peaceful manner."

"China can facilitate a three-way dialogue among the top leaders of China, North Korea and the United States so we can at least try the shortcut."

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North Korea launched a non-nuclear missile test on April 15 after a day of military parades, but the weapon exploded nearly immediately, according to CNN. It was widely seen as a national embarrassment, particularly for Kim.

"The president and his military team are aware of North Korea's most recent unsuccessful missile launch. The president has no further comment," said U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Nearly 30,000 U.S. soldiers are stationed in South Korea, and military exercises on land and sea in the area are frequent. North Korea has previously complained about the surrounding forces as the "American ring of fire."

The U.S. technically remains at war with North Korea, since a peace treaty was never signed after the end of the Korean War in 1953.

China, which maintains ties with North Korea, is willing to engage in talks.

"As long as it is a talk, China is willing to support it: either it is formal or informal, one-track or dual-track, bilateral, trilateral or quadrilateral," said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. "We are also willing to stay open-minded and accept the good advice from others."

Sources: BBC, The New York Times, CNN / Photo credit: Uri Tours/Wikimedia Commons

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