North Korea turned 69 on Saturday, but their celebrations this year have been rather understated and without the bombastic shows of force that Pyongyang has become known for. South Korea was on alert after thinking they might celebrate with another ballistic missile test, but instead it was a more staid affair with ceremonies to honor past leaders. Meanwhile, the U.N. is considering fresh sanctions to counter North Korea’s increasingly frequent and powerful missile launches.
While North Koreans decorated statues with flowers, the U.N. was preparing for a Monday vote on new sanctions to punish Pyongyang for its recent uptick in long-range missile tests and a sixth nuclear test. Mexico also became the latest nation to respond by expelling North Korea’s ambassadors.
In reference to the U.N. vote, Japan is pushing for strong oil sanctions, while the U.S. wants to ban textile exports and shut down the hiring of North Korean guest workers in other countries. The Philippines also wants to cut trade ties, however, Russia and China are still leery of how effective further sanctions would actually be, in part because of their own economic ties to Pyongyang.
Those considerations haven’t seemed to dampen North Korea’s spirits, however. Citizens are still excited about the success of North Korea’s recent missile tests and how far the country’s technological capabilities have progressed. “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,” said Pyongyang resident Pak Kum Hyang.
In the meantime, the U.S. Air Force joined with Japan Air Self-Defense Force to hold drills over the East China Sea on Saturday, a demonstration that not only sent a message to North Korea, but China, too. Tensions between China and the U.S. have grown as the two disagree over how to handle the growing North Korean threat and China increases its military installations in the South China Sea.