In a potentially concerning geopolitical development, Reuters reports that foreign journalists visiting North Korea have been told to prepare for a “big and important event” on Thursday, although the wire service says there were “no indications it was directly linked to tensions in the region over the isolated state’s nuclear weapons program.”
According to Channel News Asia reported Jeremy Koh, “we’ve been told to be ready to move out at 620am, but no idea why. Also, no cell phones allowed.”
— Jeremy Koh (@JeremyKohCNA) April 12, 2017
As a reminder, April 15 marks the nation’s 105th birthday of founding president Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s biggest national day called “Day of the Sun”, and around 200 foreign journalists are in Pyongyang to cover it, however why North korea would urge particular attention to a day that falls two days earlier was unclear, although there is precedent: In April, 2012, North Korea attempted to launch a long-range rocket ahead of the 100th Day of the Sun. State media later confirmed the launch had failed.
The mystery grew when officials gave no details as to the nature of the event or where it would take place. That said, similar announcements in the past have been linked to relatively low-key set pieces. In 2016, Reuters adds, foreign journalists underwent hours of investigation by North Korean officials ahead of what turned out to be a pop concert to mark the finale of a ruling Workers’ Party congress.
Meanwhile, tensions are running high, with a U.S. Navy strike group steaming toward the western Pacific in a show of force and North Korea warning of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression.
Visits by foreign journalists to North Korea are rare and tightly coordinated, Reuters adds, and security checks at events attended by leader Kim Jong Un are especially rigorous. North Korea often uses such visits to showcase new construction projects. In recent weeks workers have been putting the finishing touches to the skyscraper-lined “Ryomyong” street in central Pyongyang.
Kim has made frequent visits to the street to inspect construction work there, according to state media. North Korea has in the past marked its April 15 holiday with tightly choreographed military parades.
Separately, in an unconfirmed report issued by Pravdareport.ru, “Kim Jong-un has ordered 25 percent of Pyongyang residents to leave the city immediately.”
In accordance with the order, 600,000 people should be urgently evacuated. Experts note that the evacuation will most likely be conducted due to extremely strained tensions in relations with the United States of America.
Reportedly, Pyongyang’s bomb shelters will not be able to accommodate the entire population of the North Korean capital. Therefore, 600,000 people – mostly individuals with criminal records – will have to leave Pyongyang to let others use bomb shelters.
We would not give this particular report much credibility, although with the information blackout out of North Korea it is impossible to confirm either way.
With market liquidity already thin, and desks barely staffed ahead of Friday’s holiday, will the market take the risk of another “irrational” demonstration of technological advancement by Kim over the next 24 hours, especially with Trump – and China – both making it abundantly clear any further provocations by North Korea’s regime would be met with retaliation, and hold stocks overnight? The answer will be revealed shortly.
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