North Korea is evidently preparing to begin a large-scale drill involving artillery firings and air force maneuvers even as tensions with South Korea and the United States remain at exceptionally high levels, Agence France-Presse reported on Sunday.
Signs of preparations for the drill were detected close to the Stalinist state's western seaport at Nampo, the Yonhap News Agency reported, citing an anonymous South Korean official. "It appears that the scale of the drill will be quite big," the source said.
The North might undertake an act of aggression against South Korea or fire a missile as part of the maneuvers, according to the official. Seoul and Washington have been on the lookout for any new provocations from Pyongyang, which has ratcheted up threats after being hit with new U.N. sanctions for its Feb. 12 nuclear test.
The two longtime allies are slated to wrap up their annual Foal Eagle military maneuvers, which Pyongyang viewed as particularly provocative this year, according to Yonhap. The drill included high-profile sorties by U.S. nuclear-capable long-range aircraft. The North responded by warning it was prepared to carry out nuclear-armed missile attacks on the South and the United States.
There have been signs recently that Pyongyang is ready to dial back its provocative rhetoric in order to achieve a return to diplomatic talks. However, there remains a wide gulf in the conditions that Washington and the North have both set before any new negotiations take place, the Associated Press reported on Monday.