WHITE HOUSE - North Korea marked the 85th anniversary of the founding of its military Tuesday with a “massive fire drill” in the eastern port city of Wonsan, according to South Korea’s defense ministry.
Some observers expected the nuclear-armed country to honor the anniversary with a sixth nuclear test or missile launch, though neither of those had occurred by evening.
The celebration came on the same day as a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Michigan, arrived in South Korea, and the navies of those two countries joined Japan in in conducting military exercises in the waters west of the Korean peninsula.
The naval exercises are scheduled to last through Wednesday, the same day President Donald Trump has invited all 100 U.S. Senators to the White House for a classified briefing that will primarily concern North Korea.
The briefing will be conducted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford.
While lawmakers often receive classified briefings on Capitol Hill, it is rare for them to take place at the White House and for the entire Senate to be involved in one event.
During a White House lunch with ambassadors of United Nations Security Council member states on Monday, the U.S. president called unacceptable the “status quo in North Korea.”
Trump said the Security Council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
“North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve,” the president added. “People have put blindfolds on for decades, and now it’s time to solve the problem.”
The comments came after Trump made his latest round of separate telephone calls to the leaders of Japan, China and Germany to discuss concerns about North Korea.
A 30-minute call between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meant to increase pressure on Pyongyang not to engage in further provocative actions, but was not prompted by any significant change in the situation, according to officials in Tokyo.
"We agreed to strongly demand North Korea, which is repeating its provocation, show restraint," Abe told reporters Monday in Tokyo. "We will maintain close contact with the United States, maintain a high level of vigilance and firmly respond."
Abe also said he and Trump agreed that a larger role in dealing with Pyongyang should be played by China.
Trump subsequently spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping about North Korea.
The Chinese president said he hopes all sides avoid doing anything to worsen the tense situation on the Korean peninsula, according to the Xinhua news agency.
More nuclear tests
North Korea’s continued development of ballistic missiles and its underground nuclear tests [there have been five, so far] are “to put it mildly, a game changer,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday. “And it’s one of the reasons why you’ve seen administration officials talking so candidly about our concerns and about the fact that the time for strategic patience and that policy is over.”
Trump and U.S. officials have repeatedly said all options remain “on the table” to deal with further North Korean provocations.