U.S. and South Korean intelligence services were monitoring North Korea’s military movements Tuesday (March 23) amid news that Pyongyang was deploying weapons.
The Wall Street Journal reported that defense officials in Seoul said the North Korean military was making unusual movements close to the South Korean border, just after North Korean Workers’ Party General Secretary Kim Jong Un and Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping exchanged messages.
Seoul officials on Tuesday declined to elaborate on the nature of the diversion. South Korean media had earlier reported that Pyongyang had deployed a 240-mile missile launcher to Jangryong Island, about 20 miles from South Korea.
“U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials are in close contact and monitoring North Korea’s armed forces,” a Seoul military spokesman told the media, “and we are not ruling out any possibility.”
The latest version of the North’s deployed weapon, which has a range to reach South Korean military bases and warships in the Yellow Sea, was displayed at a military parade in Pyongyang last year.
Another backdrop to Tuesday’s concern over the strange movement along the North Korean border was the official announcement hours earlier by China and North Korea that the two leaders exchanged a message saying they were strengthening strategic cooperation.
The DPRK’s Labor News reported that Kim briefed Xi Jinping, stressing the need for the two Koreas to strengthen unity and cooperation to deal with the all-round challenges and obstructive activities of hostile forces. The briefing mentioned hostile forces twice, but did not specify which countries.
In contrast, the official Chinese Communist Party media Xinhua did not mention the DPRK’s defense forces.
Song Tao, head of the CCP Central Committee’s Foreign Liaison Department, met with DPRK Ambassador Ri Yong Nam in Beijing on March 22. The two sides conveyed a message from the leaders of both countries.
Kim Heung-kyu, director of the U.S.-China Policy Institute at Ajou University in South Korea, told the Wall Street Journal, “This is a gentle warning from China [the Chinese Communist Party] to the U.S. that giving North Korea breathing room through economic aid could undermine U.S. sanctions against Pyongyang.”
The exchange of messages between China and North Korea represents a diplomatic show of strength for the U.S., considering that the moves were disclosed just days after visits to Asia by the secretaries of state and defense and after a rhetorical U.S.-China meeting in Alaska.
After meeting with Chinese Communist Party officials last week, Blinken said North Korea is one of the areas where the two countries have intersecting interests.
The U.S. and South Korea conducted annual defense drills this month that relied heavily on computer simulations to avoid provoking North Korea and minimize the risk of virus transmission, according to South Korean officials.
North Korea has criticized the move, and Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned the Biden administration not to make trouble for itself. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin immediately responded that U.S. forces are ready to go to war against North Korea and are “ready to fight tonight.”
Senior U.S. military officials have recently said that China, Russia and North Korea are the primary adversaries of the United States.
In a speech before the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this month, senior U.S. commander in the Pacific Adm. Philip Davidson called North Korea the “most immediate threat” to the United States, while China (the Chinese Communist Party) is the “greatest strategic threat” to the United States. ” and that Russia is a great power competitor to the United States.