by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Nov 2, 2017
Pyongyang may be preparing for another missile test, South Korea's spy agency said Thursday according to reports, just days before US President Donald Trump visits the divided peninsula.
"There is a possibility that North Korea will launch a missile as active movements of vehicles have been detected at a missile research facility in Pyongyang," the National Intelligence Service told a closed-door parliamentary audit, the Yonhap news agency reported.
In July Pyongyang launched two ICBMs apparently capable of reaching the US mainland - described by leader Kim Jong-Un as a gift to "American bastards" - and followed up with two missiles that passed over Japan and its sixth nuclear test, sending tensions rocketing.
Trump and Kim have engaged in a heated war of words in recent months, trading threats and personal insults and heightening global alarm.
The US president will arrive in Seoul on Tuesday as part of his Asia tour which also includes Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, with all eyes on his message to Kim and the North.
Amid a flurry of diplomatic visitors to the region, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that Pyongyang's weapons ambitions have become a "global threat", with the US mainland and Europe coming within reach of its missiles.
"I think we all understand that a war will be catastrophic and extremely dangerous not only for people living in this region but for global peace and security," Stoltenberg told reporters in Seoul.
But the 29-nation defence alliance was "always ready to respond and to counter any attack from any direction", he added. "That's the way NATO has handled ballistic threats for decades."
It was important not to dramatise the tensions and create a "more challenging situation", he said.
China's Xi sends rare message to North Korea's Kim
The note signalled a possible improvement in their strained relationship, which has soured over Pyongyang's growing weapons ambitions even though Beijing is its longtime ally and economic benefactor.
Xi's message, dated Wednesday, was sent in response to congratulations from Kim last week for securing a second term as the head of China's ruling party.
"I wish that under the new situation the Chinese side would make efforts with the DPRK side to promote the relations between the two parties and the two countries to sustainable soundness and stable development," Xi said, according to the North's KCNA news agency, addressing Kim as "Comrade Chairman".
In his earlier note, Kim had offered Xi his "sincere congratulations" and expressed his belief that their relations would develop "in the interests of the people of the two countries".
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing in Beijing Thursday that North Korea's message was just one among many others received. Xi had responded "out of politeness," she said.
The last time KCNA reported a message from Xi was in July 2016.
Analysts say that such exchanges have become extremely rare under the current leaders, even though Beijing and Pyongyang traditionally sent greetings and congratulations on each other's key anniversaries in the past.
Their relationship was forged in the bloodshed of the Korean War, when Mao Zedong sent millions of "volunteers" to fight US-led United Nations forces to a standstill.
Mao described the allies as close as "lips and teeth", and China has long been accused of failing to enforce United Nations sanctions against the North for its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, even after voting for them in the Security Council.
But Beijing has grown increasingly frustrated by its belligerent neighbour, and rapidly backed a new set of UN measures after a flurry of missile launches by the North and its sixth nuclear test in September.
Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said the public exchange of messages signalled a willingness on both sides to improve relations.
"The fact that both sides are swiftly trading letters and announcing it carries a symbolic meaning," Yang told AFP.
"If the message was more intimate, we could expect a faster thawing of ties," he added, "but for now, it shows that both sides agree on the need to improve their relations".
Seoul (AFP) Oct 31, 2017
South Korea and China tried Tuesday to improve a relationship strained by a US missile defence system, issuing strikingly similar statements, and with Seoul saying their leaders would hold talks on the sidelines of next week's APEC summit. The nations have been at loggerheads over the deployment in South Korea of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which Seoul and Wash ... read more
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