North Korea is continuing to carry out military drills despite ongoing peace negotiations with South Korea and the United States, according to a report Thursday from South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.
Having spoken to intelligence sources, the outlet reported that the North “conducted live-fire drills in waters off Wonsan, Kangwon Province from last Friday through Sunday,” adding that “the size of the fleet was even bigger than in previous years.”
“Several explosions big enough to cause small earthquakes were detected, and intelligence authorities here are trying to figure out if a new type of depth charge was involved,” the report continues.
The drills come despite ongoing talks between North Korea, South Korea, and the United States, as the free states seek to achieve peace deal that would involve the North dropping its nuclear weapons program.
“Since December, the North has been staging military drills at levels similar to those in previous years,” an intelligence source said.
As the drills took place, South Korean President Moon Jae-in held another meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries, where the pair reportedly “exchanged their opinions” on the possibility of a meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump.
In recent weeks, Seoul has downgraded their military exercises across the Korean Peninsula in an attempt to improve their relationship with the Kim regime and has also urged Washington not to send powerful B-52 bombers for military exercises.
North Korea recently walked out of talks with the South over planned joint military drills with the United States, which the regime described as a “flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula.”
North Korea’s state newspaper Rodong Sinmun warned on Wednesday that continued U.S. drills amount to an “intolerable mockery” of ongoing peace efforts, adding that the U.S. would have to “undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities.”
Yet on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down with North Korea official Kim Yong-chol, still sanctioned by the State Department for his ties to various North Korean acts of terrorism, where he delivered a personal letter to Kim Jong-un saying that denuclearization talks were moving in the “right direction.”
A recent report from NBC News cited an alleged CIA document concluding that intelligence officials struggle to believe that the regime will abandon his nuclear weapons program.