April 21, 2017 09:42
Acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn on Thursday asked the military to reinforce its defenses and warned that North Korea is poised to carry out a provocation around April 25.
There are increasing signs that the North is getting ready to conduct a fresh nuclear test, and a U.S. Navy strike group headed by the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is expected to return to waters off the Korean Peninsula around the same time.
"Rumors about an impending crisis on the peninsula have now subsided significantly, but military tensions are still high," a government source here said.
Hwang told a meeting of ministers, "The North failed in its attempted missile launch on Sunday, but there are worries that it will carry out a provocation on the founding anniversary of its Army on April 25 given its recent behavior and statements."
He called on the military and all ministries to "keep close watch for such a possibility and reinforce their immediate response posture."
A nuclear sniffer plane was sent into skies over the East Sea on an emergency mission Thursday to prepare for another nuclear test by the North. The WC-135 of the U.S. Air Force has been on standby for any mission since it arrived at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japan on April 7.
It collects air samples from the atmosphere and can determine whether any nuclear detonation is from a plutonium or a uranium bomb.
South Korea's Air Force Operations Command and the U.S. Forces Korea's Seventh Air Force have been staging a massive joint exercise dubbed Max Thunder since April 14, an Air Force spokesman here said.
It simulates precision airstrikes on the North's command posts, including leader Kim Jong-un's underground bunker, and air fields, as well as its nuclear and missile bases.
A military source here speculated, "There's a likelihood that military tensions will rise again after a fresh provocation from the North."
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