Monday, April 15 is what would have been North Korean leader Kim Il-sung’s 105th birthday.
It is also the day Seoul is bracing itself for a missile test in the North.
The commemorations of Kim Il-sung’s birthday are usually a time for attention-grabbing military parades and there was a failed satellite launch around the same time last year.
Foreign ministers in London for a G8 meeting have condemned Pyongyang for ratcheting up the tension in the Korean peninsula.
US President Barack Obama has called on the North to end what he describes as its “belligerent approach”.
Currently visiting Seoul, US Secretary of State John Kerry played down a US intelligence report that concluded North Korea has enough knowledge to arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.
“We will defend our allies, we will stand with South Korea, Japan and others against these threats and we will defend ourselves. And Kim Jong-un needs to understand, which I think he probably does, what the outcome of the conflict would be,” Kerry said at a news conference in Seoul.
Kerry starting his Asia-Pacific trip in South Korea could further provoke the North.
Demanding Kerry go to Pyongyang for peace talks, protesters in South Korea also denounced joint military exercises between their country and the US.
Washington is hoping Beijing can exert some influence on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
China is the reclusive and secretive state’s only major ally. Beijing has already sent Pyongyang a strong warning not to “misjudge” the situation.