WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of U.S. forces in South Korea said on Thursday he was not seeing indications that North Korea was looking at “lashing out” ahead of an expected military parade next month, as Pyongyang is internally focused on dealing with typhoon damage and the coronavirus.
“There’s people suggesting that perhaps there will be a rollout of a new weapon system. Maybe, but we’re not seeing any indications right now of any sort of lashing out,” General Robert Abrams said during an event hosted by Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
A CSIS report on Friday said satellite imagery of a North Korean shipyard showed activity suggestive of preparations for a test of a medium-range submarine-launched ballistic missile.
News of the activity at the Sinpo shipyard comes amid signs that North Korea may be preparing for a major military parade in October, which some analysts believe could be used to show off new missiles, as the country has done at such events in the past.
U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking re-election on Nov. 3 and a missile test or such a display by North Korea before that would highlight the lack of progress in his unprecedented engagement with the country, which included meetings with its leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 and 2019.
Earlier on Thursday, Trump, without providing any context, wrote on Twitter: “Kim Jong Un is in good health. Never underestimate him!”
Trump’s tweet came a day after the release of excerpts of letters between Kim and Trump in a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward, in which the North Korean leader addresses the U.S. leader as “excellency” and two exchanged other expressions of flattery.
There was widespread speculation this year about Kim’s health when he disappeared from public view for much of April. Trump welcomed Kim’s public reappearance in May and has continued to refer to him as a friend.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker)