On the anniversary of the death of former North Korea leader Kim Jong-Il, the secretive state has released footage of thousands of mourners bowing and laying flowers at the feet of statues of Jong-Il—who died on December 17, 2011—and national founder Kim Il Sung.
Senior party officials also visited a mausoleum on the outskirts of North Korea’s capital Pyongyang that contains the body of Kim Il Sung, according to local media, on the day that experts feared Kim Jong Un may launch a new missile test in tribute to his father and grandfather.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank, predicted last month that the day of national mourning could be marked with a test. In the past, North Korea has coordinated missile launches to coincide with significant days in the nationl calendar.
On Saturday, December 16, fears were further fuelled by comments made by Chinese government advisers who said China should mobilize resources in preparation for a possible war with the rogue state.
“Conditions on the peninsular now make for the biggest risk of war in decades,” Renmin University professor Shi Yinhong, who also advises the Chinese government, told the South China Morning Post .
“North Korea is a time bomb. WE can only delay the explosion, hoping that by delaying it, a time will come to remove the detonator.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has said war on the peninsula would be unacceptable and that a peaceful solution should be sought.
CSIS notes that winter months generally signify a downturn in missile tests, according to data gathered between 1984 and 2017, meaning that provocations are expected to increase in the spring and summer months of 2018.
Analysts say the current period of relative calm should therefore be used for diplomacy in the hope of deescalating international tensions.
“The data [reveals] that there is a clear uptick in provocations starting in the months of March and April, which is the period when U.S. and South Korea conduct their annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve joint military exercises,” Lisa Collins from the CSIS wrote in a November 29 newsletter.
“This anticipated uptick in provocations in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2018 would not provide favorable conditions for diplomacy with North Korea. The space for dialogue may therefore be limited to the next three months when we can expect fewer provocations from North Korea.”
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