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(LEAD) N.K. marks military anniversary with war rhetoric against U.S.

All Headlines 14:26 April 25, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 8, 9, 12)

SEOUL, April 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Tuesday marked the 85th founding anniversary of its military, bolstering its bellicose rhetoric against the United States amid tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

On the Korean People's Army (KPA) anniversary, the North warned that the U.S. will have to choose between political and military surrender, showing off its readiness to counter Washington's possible preemptive strike.

"If the U.S. and warmongers run amok with a reckless preemptive strike, we will stage the most brutal punishment of a pre-emptive attack in the sky and land as well as at sea and from underwater without any warning or prior notice," said Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

The warning came amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs.

South Korea and the U.S. are closely monitoring the possibility of Pyongyang conducting a sixth nuclear test or launching a ballistic missile on the occasion of the North's anniversary.

The North held a meeting on Monday to celebrate the KPA's anniversary, stressing that it is ready to respond to possible Washington military actions.

"If the enemies dare opt for the military adventure despite our repeated warnings, our armed forces will wipe the strongholds of aggression off the surface of the earth through the powerful preemptive nuclear attacks," said Pak Yong-sik, the minister of the armed forces.

This image, captured from footage of North Korea's state-run TV station on April 24, 2017, shows a meeting attended by key party and military officials held on the eve of the 85th founding anniversary of the Korean People's Army. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

North Korea boasted its nuclear explosion in 2016 and tests of missiles including a new intermediate-range ballistic missile dubbed Pukguksong-2, calling it "a nuclear power in the East."

"Thanks to having invincible military power, (North Korea) is successfully pushing forward the cause of building a socialist power, frustrating the hostile forces' madcap nuclear war provocations," the North's state news agency said.

Seoul's unification ministry said that North Korea does not seem to have any major events planned for the anniversary despite its war rhetoric.

"Another military parade is not expected, as North Korea already held a massive parade on the birthday of late state founder Kim Il-sung," said a military official. "Unusual movements are not detected in relation to the KPA anniversary."

Instead of a high-profile provocation, North Korea conducted what is seen as the largest-ever live-fire drill near the eastern city of Wonsan, according to a government source.

North Korea unveiled prototypes of three intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in a show of force at a military parade held on April 15, the 105th birthday of Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.

Tensions are still running high as the U.S. Navy strike group, including aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, is expected to sail near the Korean Peninsula this weekend.

The U.S. flattop is expected to join military drills with the South Korean Navy in waters off the country's east coast, according to a military official.

North Korea's media warned that its military is ready to "sink" the carrier "with a single strike" if needed.

This photo, released by Europe's news photo agency EPA on April 15, 2017, shows the USS aircraft carrier Carl Vinson. The flattop is expected to sail near the Korean Peninsula this week. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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