PYONGYANG, North Korea - In the last decade since North Korea intensified its nuclear program, the current period has been one of the most hostile when it comes to the reclusive nation’s ties with the rest of the world.
Ties between North Korea and the United States have especially soured since the start of the year and hostilities have expanded more so due to the personal insulting statements made by leaders of both the nations, against each other.
The threat of a nuclear war breaking out is therefore at its highest.
In the melee, reports have now emerged that North Korea’s top nuclear general has vanished from the scene, despite the country’s increasing efforts into intensifying its nuclear program, with the agenda of striking mainland U.S. in the face of threats from America of its allies.
According to reports, North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un’s missile chief Lt. General Kim Rak-gyom has not been seen in public for weeks.
The commander-in-chief of North Korea’s rocket forces is often seen at the dictator’s right side during key public events.
However, Lt. General Rak-gyom has remained noticeably absent from two recent key celebrations.
Reports pointed out that the general failed to show up at a mass rally on Pyongyang on Saturday and the Workers Party anniversary on Tuesday.
The mystery deepens further as Ri Man-gon, the leading engineer behind the rogue state’s nuclear missile programme is also missing from action.
Rumours state that the pair may be missing as they are busy preparing another missile launch.
North Korea’s last provocative test came on September 15, a couple of weeks after it tested its sixth and most powerful nuclear weapon so far.
Since then, North Korea has been silent.
Last week, CIA spies and South Korean intelligence feared that the reclusive nation would launch a missile on October 10.
However, the day passed without any major threat emerging from North Korea.
Sources in Seoul have said, “Ri and Kim were not seen in the footage and images released by North Korean state media of a full session of the party's committee last Saturday."
Sources quoted in the South Korean media revealed, “There's little chance that Ri and Kim have been dismissed or purged because they've been praised for major achievements recently. It's highly likely that they were absent because they'd been given an important assignment."
Now, all eyes are on a potential missile or nuclear test by North Korea, which experts fear will be conducted next Wednesday, on October 18, which would mark the beginning of China’s 19th Party Congress – the most important political event in years Beijing.
According to some experts, North Korea may be seeking to send a message to China – and the U.S. – by marking the key political date with a display of its nuclear might.
Meanwhile, tensions have reached a new high in Washington as U.S. President Donald Trump is said to have hosted a meeting in the White House war room, to discuss North Korea.
Recently, U.S. General James Mattis, who has so far hoped for a diplomatic solution to the raging anger between Washington and Pyongyang said that the U.S. Army had been instructed to “stand ready” for war with North Korea.
Further, President Trump too last week described the world as in the “calm before the storm” and warned that only “one thing” will stop Kim Jong Un, indicating military action could be taken.
Meanwhile, North Korea has responded back to the threatening statement, saying Trump has “lit the wick of war” and that it is ready to “settle the final score with a hail of fire.”
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho was quoted as saying on Wednesday, "With his bellicose and insane statement at the United Nations, Trump, you can say, has lit the wick of a war against us. We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words.”