Japan and US conduct fighter jet drills as North Korea celebrates founding anniversary

North Korea celebrated its 69th founding anniversary with flowers and music, while Japan marked the occasion with fighter jet drills over the East China Sea.

The North Korean anniversary has traditionally been a time for the country to display its latest military advances. In the wake of the its sixth-ever nuclear test last week, the international community was poised for another demonstration of the North’s increasing nuclear power.

The demonstration, however, never came. Residents of Pyongyang paid the usual respects to late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, without any major military display.

“Because we firmly support our respected supreme leader comrade Kim Jong Un, our country will become stronger as a self-reliant, nuclear power, and we will have a great future,” Pyongyang citizen Pak Kum Hyang told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, Japan and the United States conducted a joint military air exercise above the East China Sea.

Two Japanese fighter jets met up with two US bombers from the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam – the US island territory that North Korea threatened to attack last month. North Korea also launched a ballistic missile over northern Japan that same month.

These missile launches – and other military displays – have increased tensions around North Korea in recent weeks. The country is now reported to have missiles capable of delivering miniaturised nuclear warheads to the US mainland. Its latest nuclear bomb test was its largest ever, and experts believe the regime is close to its goal of developing a powerful nuclear bomb.

North Korean youth during a dance party in Pyongyang celebrating the 69th anniversary of North Korea’s national day (KNS/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the situation by phone on Saturday, Mr Macron’s office said.

The leaders emphasised the need for a “united and firm” international reaction to Pyongyang, and discussed increased pressure and sanctions. Mr Macron said the North’s “repeated provocations” were a “threat to peace and international security”.

The White House made no mention of the call.

The UN Security Council is considering additional sanctions against North Korea in the wake of its latest nuclear test. The US is pushing for an oil embargo on North Korea, as well as a ban on its exports of textiles and the hiring of North Korean workers, according to a draft resolution obtained by Reuters.

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