May 31, 2018 13:10
North Korea staged massive maritime drills in the East Sea even as President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last Saturday and while U.S. officials met their North Korean counterparts on Sunday in the truce village of Panmunjom.
Yet the North unilaterally canceled high-level cross-border talks scheduled for May 16 citing the Max Thunder joint South Korea-U.S. aerial drills. Intelligence sources said Wednesday that the North conducted live-fire drills in waters off Wonsan, Kangwon Province from last Friday through Sunday, and the size of the fleet was even bigger than in previous years.
Several explosions big enough to cause small earthquakes were detected, and intelligence authorities here are trying to figure out if a new type of depth charge was involved.
While this was going on, Kim welcomed Moon at the Tongilgak building on the northern side of Panmunjom and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui sat down for talks with U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim to discuss the agenda of a U.S.-North Korea summit scheduled for June 12 in Singapore.
And North Korean state media noisily demanded that the U.S. and South Korea cancel annual joint exercises slated for August. "Since December, the North has been staging military drills at levels similar to those in previous years," an intelligence official said. Some drills have been slightly downsized, which probably has something to do with the fact that Kim Jong-un was not there to attend.
Seoul, meanwhile, has been bending over backwards to avoid agitating the North, rescheduling and reducing the scale of joint annual military exercises and asking Washington not to send B-52 bombers to the Korean Peninsula.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government issued an alert on Tuesday for "Hidden Cobra," a North Korean hacker group, ahead of a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Kim Yong-chol, the director of the North's United Front Department, in New York.
In a joint alert, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI said "Hidden Cobra" is targeting media outlets, airlines and financial institutions in the U.S. and worldwide.
It published a list of 87 IP addresses, four strains of malware, and two e-mail addresses linked to the hackers.
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