KONFRONTASI-North Korea put on a massive live-fire drill on Tuesday to mark the foundation of its military, media reports said, as a U.S. submarine docked in South Korea in a show of force amid growing concern over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.
The port call by the USS Michigan came as a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group steams for Korean waters and as the top nuclear envoys from South Korea, Japan, and the United States met in Tokyo to discuss the North's refusal to give up its nuclear program.
Fears have risen in recent weeks that North Korea could soon conduct another nuclear test or long-range missile launch in defiance of United Nations sanctions.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported that the North appeared to have deployed a large number of long-range artillery units in the region of Wonsan on its east coast on Tuesday, conducting a large-scale, live-fire drill.
The report, citing an unidentified government source, said the live-fire exercise was possibly supervised by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
While South Korea's Defence Ministry could not immediately confirm the report, the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said: "Our military is closely monitoring the North Korean military's movement in Wonsan areas and we are firmly maintaining readiness."
North Korea defiantly said in a state media commentary marking the 85th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People's Army's that its military was prepared "to bring to closure the history of U.S. scheming and nuclear blackmail".
"There is no limit to the strike power of the People's Army armed with our style of cutting-edge military equipment including various precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and submarine-launched ballistic missiles," the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a front-page editorial.
South Korea's Navy said it was conducting a live-fire exercise with U.S. Navy destroyers on Tuesday in waters west of the Korean peninsula and would soon join the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group approaching the region.
The carrier group was sent to the region as a warning to North Korea and a show of solidarity with U.S. allies.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshide Suga, told a media briefing that China's nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, would hold talks with Japanese Foreign Ministry officials on Tuesday. A ministry source said Wu was likely to meet his Japanese nuclear counterpart on Wednesday.
Emerging from talks with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, the U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun, said: "As we discuss these things all our steps and every part of them will be in coordination and consultation with our partners."
"We believe China has a very, very important role to play," Yun said.