U.S. Urges North Korea to Cease Provocative Actions Following Claimed Underwater Nuclear TestHeavy Snowfall Disrupts Winter Youth Olympics in Gangwon, Emergency State Activated

WASHINGTON– The United States has issued a call for North Korea to halt further provocative and destabilizing activities and return to diplomatic dialogue. This appeal comes in response to Pyongyang's claim of testing an underwater nuclear weapons system.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, North Korea's defense ministry announced the testing of the Haeil-5-23 system, describing it as significant. This claim was made amidst denouncements of the recent naval drills conducted by South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, which North Korea labeled as "reckless confrontation hysteria." A State Department spokesperson, in response to an inquiry from Yonhap News Agency, urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to engage in substantive discussions and focus on risk management and peace creation on the Korean Peninsula, reiterating that the U.S. has no hostile intentions towards North Korea.

John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, acknowledged the United States' ongoing discussions with South Korea regarding the North's claims. Kirby emphasized the lack of specific information to validate North Korea's claims and the importance of working closely with South Korean partners for further insights. He also noted that if North Korea's claims are true, it underscores the regime's continued provocations and pursuit of advanced military capabilities, posing threats to its neighbors and regional stability.

Kirby expressed concern over North Korea's escalating rhetoric against Seoul and Washington, emphasizing the necessity to take such statements seriously, given the regime's ongoing pursuit of nuclear and advanced military capabilities. He suggested that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un should prioritize the well-being of his people over military advancements.

Additionally, a Pentagon spokesperson reaffirmed the U.S.' commitment to the security of South Korea and Japan, emphasizing the threat posed by North Korea's military programs. The spokesperson underlined the U.S.' dedication to collaborating with both South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea, ROK) and Japan to counter the threats from the DPRK. This statement came in the wake of joint trilateral naval drills involving South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, which included the participation of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. These drills followed Pyongyang's recent launch of a hypersonic missile.

SEOUL – The Winter Youth Olympics venue in Gangwon Province, South Korea, faced severe disruptions due to heavy snowfall on Saturday. To address the challenges posed by the extreme weather, the South Korean government has activated emergency protocols to safeguard the safety of both participants and residents.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the city of Gangneung in Gangwon Province, one of the main sites for the Winter Youth Olympics, recorded approximately 41.6 centimeters of snow by 9 p.m. Neighboring Samcheok received 33.4 cm of snowfall. This significant snow accumulation led to road blockages in Gangneung, and a total of 41 entrances to major mountains in the region, including Mount Seorak, have been closed.

Meteorological officials forecast an additional snowfall of up to 10 cm in mountainous areas and up to 5 cm in regions along the East Sea through Sunday. In response to the severe weather conditions, the provincial government escalated to Level 2 emergency mode. Measures taken include the mobilization of 5,620 officials and 693 pieces of snow removal equipment to manage the situation.

The heavy snowfall has impacted some of the planned events of the Winter Youth Olympics. The sporting event's organizers have advised participants to stay updated through the official website for any possible changes in the schedule.

Gangwon Governor Kim Jin-tae assured that the government is making comprehensive efforts to ensure the Olympics proceed smoothly despite the weather-related challenges.

The fourth edition of the Winter Youth Olympics, which began on Friday, is set to run until February 1. The event features 1,802 athletes from 78 nations, competing in 81 events across seven sports and 15 disciplines. South Korea, as the host nation, has the largest delegation, with 102 athletes participating in the games.

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