Sun, Dec 29, 2019 - Page 4 News List

US base blares false alarm amid North Korea worry

‘HUMAN ERROR’:The operator immediately identified the mistake and alerted all units at the base of the false alarm, a US Army public affairs officer said yesterday

AP, SEOUL

A US military base in South Korea accidentally blared an alert siren instead of a bugle call, causing a brief scare just as the US and its allies are monitoring for signs of provocation from North Korea, which has warned that it could send a “Christmas gift” over deadlocked nuclear negotiations.

The siren at Camp Casey, which is near the border with North Korea, went off by “human error” at about 10pm on Thursday, said US Army Lieutenant Colonel Martyn Crighton, a public affairs officer for the US Second Infantry Division.

The operator immediately identified the mistake and alerted all units at the base of the false alarm, which did not interfere with any operations, Crighton said in an e-mail yesterday.

The incident came after Japan Broadcasting Corp caused panic early on Friday by mistakenly sending a news alert saying that North Korea had fired a missile over Japan that landed in the sea off Hokkaido. The broadcaster apologized, saying that the alert was for media training purposes.

Pyongyang has been dialing up the pressure on Washington with its Christmas deadline issued by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for US President Donald Trump’s administration to offer mutually acceptable terms for a nuclear deal.

There are concerns that Pyongyang could do something provocative if Washington does not back down and relieve sanctions imposed on North Korea’s broken economy.

North Korea fired two missiles over Japan during a provocative run in weapons tests in 2017, which also included three flight tests of developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which demonstrated potential capabilities to reach the US mainland.

Tensions eased last year after Kim initiated diplomacy with Washington and Seoul, while looking to leverage his nukes for economic and security benefits.

However, negotiations have faltered since a February summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump broke down after the US side rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Thae-song said in a statement earlier this month that the Trump administration was running out of time to salvage faltering nuclear negotiations, adding that it is entirely up to the US to choose what “Christmas gift” it gets from the North.

North Korea in recent weeks said that it conducted two “crucial” tests at a long-range rocket facility, which Pyongyang said would strengthen its nuclear deterrent, prompting speculation that it is developing a new ICBM or preparing a satellite launch.

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