North Korea Braces for US Missile Strike as One in Syria, US Offers Pyongyang Guarantees, Reports Say

A handout photo made available by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) shows the Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) arriving in Busan, South Korea, 25 April 2017, for a regularly scheduled port visit while conducting routine patrols throughout the Western Pacific. Photo: US Navy/MC 2nd Class Jermaine Ra/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • North Korea’s armed forces have been bracing for a US missile strike since at least mid-April, report claims.
  • North Korea appears to be very aware of the US missile strike against Syria on April 7, it claims.
  • In meeting with a special South Korean envoy, US Secretary of State Tillerson is said to have given guarantees to the North Korean regime as a way of seeking engagement.
  • Tillerson is said to have made it clear the US was not seeking regime change in North Korea but a reduction of tensions and denuclearization.
  • US President Trump is said to be willing to make peace through engagement with Pyongyang if conditions are right.

North Korea’s armed forces are bracing for a possible US strike with cruise missiles such as the one US President Donald Trump ordered against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on April 7, according to a report.

On April 7, US President Donald Trump ordered a missile strike on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the April 4 attack with chemical weapons which reportedly killed dozens of civilians, including many children, in Khan Sheikhun, Idlib province, in Northwest Syria.

The April 7 US strike against Syria’s regime was carried out with 59 cruise missiles launched from two destroyers in the Mediterranean, and targeted the Shayrat Airfield in Homs province in Western Syria.

On Sunday, North Korea carried out a new successful ballistic missile test in defiance of the US, South Korea and Japan, and even of its ally China, leading South Korea to admit that the missile program of Kim Jong-un’s regime is advancing faster than thought, and a war might be in the making.

Shortly after that North Korea’s regime issued a statement claiming that its new rocket could deliver a “large heavy nuclear warhead” all the way to the US mainland.

In its previous missile launch at the end of April, North Korea’s regime suffered a second failure in a row with its latest ballistic missile test attempt amid continuing tensions with the US and South Korea.

North Korea has now carried out three failed and four successful rocket launches since the start of the Trump Administration.

An advanced US missile defense system, is already operational in South Korea, and can intercept ballistic missiles launched by the regime of Kim Jong-un in North Korea.

US troops in South Korea began the the installation the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, formerly known as Theater High Altitude Area Defense) last week, a day after the North Korean regime celebrated the 85th anniversary since the founding of its military with massive live-fire drills with conventional weapons.

Even though plans for the US missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula have been slammed by China and Russia which deem it detrimental to their security, Chinese state media and North Korea’s official news agency have recently been engaged in a war of words.

Ongoing activity and a large number of people have been spotted at North Korea’s nuclear test site, the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, amid lingering concerns that the regime of leader Kim Jong-un could carry out its sixth nuclear test.

The latest missile firing by Kim Jong-un’s regime comes shortly after the election of South Korea’s new President, liberal Moon Jae-in, who favors engagement with North Korea rather than a harsher stance.

Bracing for Strike

The North Korean army is repairing protective walls for gallery positions to brace for possible cruise missile strikes after witnessing such US attacks on Syria last month, US broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.

Citing the Osaka-based edition Asia Press, which specializes in North Korean research, it said that the ministry of the North Korean armed forces ordered the army to take steps to protect gallery strongholds from air raids as early as mid-April.

“North Korea seems to be very aware of the US attack on Syria,” Jiro Ishimaru of Asia Press said, adding that the media outlet’s North Korean source clearly said “preparations against cruise missiles.”

In particular, the Ministry’s instruction called for the army to remove strongholds made of stones as they can cause additional casualties when they are broken into pieces by missiles and instead make them with gunnysacks filled with earth or sand, Ishimaru said.

US Guarantees

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that the United States wanted North Korea to trust its promise of no hostility and conduct no more nuclear or missile tests before Washington can consider opening talks with the communist nation, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

His remarks were made in a meeting with South Korea’s special presidential envoy Hong Seok-hyun. They are said to be the latest in a series of signs that the US may be moving toward dialogue and engagement after months of exchanging saber-rattling and harsh rhetoric with the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“The most impressive thing that I heard (from Tillerson) was that sanctions and pressure are not by themselves aimed at harassing North Korea, but are designed to create an opportunity for North Korea’s development through opening its doors and scrapping its nuclear program,” Hong said.

Tillerson was also quoted as saying he hopes the North will trust the US despite what it considers the burden of risks involved in doing so.

He also said there are many companies willing to invest in North Korea and if the North makes the right choice, it will be good for its development, according to Hong.

A member of Hong’s delegation, who requested anonymity, also quoted Tillerson as saying that the US meant it when it said it seeks no regime change, no invasion of North Korea and it will guarantee the existence of North Korea’s government system.

Tillerson also said that the US was sending its messages only through public channels and the North should not inquire about US intentions “through back channels,” according to the official.

In his words, Tillerson said that, should the North want talks with the US, Pyongyang should refrain from conducting nuclear or missile tests for a certain period of time so as to create the right atmosphere for talks, according to the official.

Tillerson is also reported to have made it clear that military options can come only after a number of other steps.

On China’s opposition to the deployment of the US THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, Tillerson said Beijing appears to be relaxing sanctions it imposed on the South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group that provided land for the THAAD battery.

Hong arrived in Washington on Wednesday and paid a visit to President Donald Trump at the White House. During the meeting, Trump expressed hope for working closely together with Moon to strengthen the alliance and resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, Hong said.

Trump also told the delegation that he is willing to make peace through engagement with Pyongyang if conditions are right, though he would not hold talks for the sake of talks.

Hong also held a separate one-on-one meeting with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to discuss pending issues between the two countries, including nuclear and missile tensions with North Korea and the deployment of THAAD.

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