North Korea Getting Fired Up for Liberation
North Korea fired five short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast on Monday, South Korea's military said, amid heightened tension over the isolated country's nuclear and rocket programs.
The unidentified projectiles were launched from south of the city of Hamhung and flew about 200 kilometers (120 miles), landing in waters east of North Korea, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
On Friday, North Korea fired two mid-range ballistic missiles into the sea in defiance of tough new U.N. and U.S. sanctions slapped on the country following nuclear and rocket tests earlier this year.
"North Korea should refrain from all provocative actions, including missile launches, which are in clear violation of U.N. resolutions," Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, told reporters in Seoul when asked about Monday's firing.
In recent weeks, North Korea has stepped up its bellicose rhetoric, threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Washington and Seoul and firing short-range missiles and artillery into the sea.
The North protests annual ongoing joint U.S.-South Korea military drills.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last week that the country would soon test a nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in what would be a direct violation of U.N. resolutions that have the backing of Pyongyang's chief ally, China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China was "deeply concerned" about the situation on the Korean peninsula.
"We hope North Korea does not do anything to contravene U.N. Security Council resolutions. We also hope all sides can remain calm and exercise restraint and avoid doing anything to exacerbate confrontation or tensions," she told a daily news briefing.
North Korea has also conducted amphibious landing and defensive drills this month, and its military have sworn to maintain a readiness to “liberate” Seoul, the North’s state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported on Sunday.
According to the article, the training was conducted to review the practicality of surprise landing attacks on the “Southern Operation Zone,” indicating South Korea’s shores.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s marine force is known to have composed a “Spartan 3000” quick reaction force, which is capable of invading North Korea within 24 hours, the Joongang Ilbo reported on Sunday.
The U.N. Security Council agreed on Monday to a Chinese request to remove sanctions on four ships that had been blacklisted for ties to Pyongyang after China secured assurances the vessels would not use North Korean crews, a U.S. official said.
The ships were among 31 vessels sanctioned by the 15-member council on March 2 because they were owned by North Korean shipping firm Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMM).
"We discovered that they are not OMM ships," Chinese U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi said on Monday. "The basis for the listing of the ships is basically that they belong to OMM, so if you make a mistake then you correct the mistake."
The four ships include the Jin Teng, a cargo ship detained by the Philippines days after the sanctions took effect.
The United States expressed a willingness to support the Chinese request after Beijing said it would ensure the ships were in compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime.