North Korea Signals Possible ‘Big’ Events in April

By Patrick Goodenough | April 3, 2017 | 4:40 AM EDT

Kim Jong-un, in a photo posted on an official regime propaganda website on Monday April 3, visits tank crews . (Photo: Uriminzokkiri)

(CNSNews.com) – Ahead of a meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping where North Korea is expected to feature prominently, the regime in Pyongyang signaled plans Monday to hold major events to coincide with two auspicious dates in April.

The announcement in the regime’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper of “big” events that will be “remembered in the national history” has prompted speculation that April 15 and/or April 25 could witness significant developments.

Important dates on the North Korean calendar have in past years been marked by advances in the regime’s nuclear and missile programs, or the unveiling of new military hardware.

April 15, “Day of the Sun,” is the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung who was born 105 years ago and was the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

April 25 is “Military Foundation Day,” the anniversary of the creation by Kim Il-sung of a guerilla army in 1932 to fight against the Japanese occupation of Korea.

In Seoul, a spokesman for the government’s unification ministry told a briefing that South Korea calls on its neighbor to refrain from “provocative acts” around important anniversaries and to work to improve inter-Korean relations.

Kim Jong-un said in a televised new year speech in January that preparations for test-firing an ICBM had “entered the final stage,” prompting then-President-elect Trump to respond with a tweet saying, “It won’t happen!”

North Korea has tested nuclear devices on five previous occasions, in 2006, 2009, 2013 and twice last year. Recent reports citing satellite images of North Korea’s main nuclear test site suggest plans for a sixth may be underway,

Of the five previous nuclear tests, the first in 2006 came on the eve of the day marking the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (Oct. 10), and the most recent occurred last September 9, the day marking the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the North’s official name.

(Dates adding up to the number nine also appear to be important to the Kims, for some reason.)

Important dates on the calendar have also been marked in past years by displays of military might, including the first public appearances of new missiles or warheads.

At a military parade on Oct. 10, 2010 (Workers’ Party of Korea founding day), the regime displayed a new warhead for its medium-range Nodong missile, providing expert observers with new clues to North Korean-Iranian missile collaboration.

At a military parade on April 15 – Kim Il-sung’s birthday – in 2012, the regime for the first time displayed a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, known as the KN-08 or Hwasong-13.

The following year, then-Joint Chiefs of Staff vice-chairman Adm. James Winnefeld said at the Pentagon, “we believe the KN-08 probably does have the range to reach the United States.”

Security officials, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper a year ago, have said since then there have been no signs yet of a KN-08 test-launch. Some experts believe Kim Jong-un may have been referring to the KN-08 in his speech on Jan. 1, 2017 signaling an ICBM test launch soon.

North Korea is likely to have an important place on the agenda when President Trump meets with his Chinese counterpart at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday and Friday.

China has long been viewed by Washington as the party most able to influence North Korea – Beijing is its key trading partner and closest diplomatic ally – if it chooses to use its leverage.

In an interview with the Financial Times published on Sunday, Trump said that “China has great influence over North Korea.”

“And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t,” he said. “And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone.”

Trump also said, however, that if China does not “solve” the North Korean problem, “we will.”

Asked whether the U.S. could do so without China’s help, the Financial Times quoted Trump as replying, “Totally.”

In a commentary on Friday, Rodong Sinmun accused the U.S. of having crossed a red line by deploying Gray Eagle attack drones at the Kunsan air base on South Korea’s west coast.

“The Trump administration, panic-stricken by the legacy of the Obama administration’s failed DPRK policy, is attempting to stifle the DPRK by force of arms as early as possible by mobilizing all the nuclear strategic assets,” the regime mouthpiece stated.

“The U.S. scenario to bring down the DPRK by force of arms is foolish as trying to sweep the sea with a broom.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow