SEOUL, April 25 (Yonhap) — North Korea staged what appears to be the largest firing drill on Tuesday to mark the 85th founding anniversary of its military, a government source said.

“Signs are detected that North Korea’s military is conducting a large-scale drill around the eastern port city of Wonsan on the anniversary,” the source said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is presumed to have watched the exercise involving some 300-400 long-range artillery pieces that can put Seoul and its adjacent areas within range, it added.

The move is seen as North Korea’s show of military force against Seoul and Washington instead of staging a large-scale provocation on the founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Army.

Speculation has been rife that Pyongyang may conduct its sixth nuclear test or launch a long-range ballistic missile to mark its military event.

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have heightened amid concerns about a possible pre-emptive strike by Washington against Pyongyang.

The U.S. navy strike group including the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson is expected to arrive near the Korean Peninsula later this week, a move seen as countering Pyongyang’s possible provocations.

U.S. President Donald Trump held phone talks with his Chinese and Japanese counterparts on Monday and vowed closer cooperation to tackle North Korea’s nuclear and missile problems.

North Korea’s drill also coincided with South Korea and the United States’ ongoing joint artillery exercise.

Seoul and Washington are conducting joint annual military drills which will wrap up at the end of this month. The North has denounced the exercises as a rehearsal for a northern invasion despite Seoul and Washington’s assurance that they are defensive in nature.

Source: Yonhap News