This Saturday (April 15th) is a national holiday in North Korea. Known as the “Day of the Sun,” it marks the birthday of the nation’s first leader.
This year, Kim Jong-un plans to celebrate by testing another weapon – possibly a nuclear device. If so, it would be the nation’s sixth nuclear test.
“The celebration may put North Korea on a military collision course with the United States,” reports Newsmax. Satellite imagery shows increased activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea.
“North Korea believes the only way to deter the US from attacking them and maintaining the power of the Kim regime is by the possession of nuclear weapons,” said 38 North analyst Joseph Bermudez.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that he believes North Korea could have the technology to launch a missile tipped with sarin – the deadly nerve gas President Assad used on his own people last week.
As I wrote Monday, the US Navy has dispatched an armada to the Western Pacific to “maintain readiness” following North Korea’s most recent missile test (which failed) and in anticipation of an April 15th launch.
North Korea considers the naval move an act of aggression and says it will “hold the US wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences” if there is further military action after the Navy strike group arrives near the peninsula.
China has cautioned the US against unilateral action, but Trump has vowed to take care of the North Korea “problem” with or without China’s help. According to Presdient Xi Jinping, China hopes to find a peaceful way to denuclearize the peninsula and will not participate in any efforts that could lead to the collapse of Kim’s regime.
As we wrote Thursday, China is on board with the UNSC’s resolution to restrict coal imports. This week, President Xi ordered North Korean cargo ships carrying coal to return home. This order follows Trump’s meeting with President Xi on April 7th (when he simultaneously ordered the strike on Syria).
The meeting was beneficial for both sides, and Trump has hinted that China can expect better trade deals in exchange for its assistance in corralling North Korea.
Xi’s decision to cut imports from North Korea also means China will be buying more coal from the US – a boon to the industry Trump has promised to revive.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration is preparing new economic sanctions for North Korea. As reported by The Hill, these new rules may include an oil embargo, a ban on Air Koryo (the country’s airline), and intercepting cargo ships headed to the peninsula.
“There’s a whole host of things that are possible, all the way up to what’s essentially a trade quarantine on North Korea,” said one official.