All day Saturday, South Korea braced for a possible new missile test by North Korea as the provocative northern neighbor marked its founding anniversary, just days after its sixth and largest nuclear test rattled global financial markets and further escalated tensions in the region. Throughout the week, South Korean officials warned the North could launch another intercontinental ballistic missile, in defiance of U.N. sanctions and to further provoke the US. As Reuters reports, Pyongyang marks its founding anniversary each year with a big display of pageantry and military hardware. Last year, North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on the Sept. 9 anniversary.
Ultimately, September 9 came and went, and North Korea did nothing, perhaps signalling its eagerness to de-escalate. Or perhaps not, and Kim is simply looking to surprise his adversaries with the ICBM launch date. Experts have said the rogue, isolated regime is close to its goal of developing a powerful nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States, something Trump has vowed to prevent.
Celebrating its founding anniversary, a front-page editorial of the Saturday edition of North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun said the country should make “more high-tech Juche weapons to continuously bring about big historical events such as a miraculous victory of July 28.”. The July date refers to the intercontinental ballistic missile test (Juche is North Korea’s homegrown ideology of self-reliance that is a mix of Marxism and extreme nationalism preached by state founder Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather).
Meanwhile, South Korean nuclear experts, checking for contamination, said on Friday they had found minute traces of radioactive xenon gas but that it was too early to link it to Sunday’s explosion. The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) said it had been conducting tests on land, air and water samples since shortly after the North Korean nuclear test on Sunday. There was no chance the xenon “will have an impact on South Korea’s territory or population”, the agency said.
What is more concerning, however, is a Friday report on NBC, according to which Trump is readying a package of diplomatic and military moves against North Korea, including cyberattacks and increased surveillance and intelligence operations, after the nation's sixth and largest nuclear test.
Trump's top national security advisers walked him through a range of options over lunch in the White House on Sunday, just hours after North Korea's latest test, officials said.