North Korea is ready to conduct a nuclear test at any moment, a South Korean lawmaker said Thursday, warning the United States that it could happen while President Joe Biden is in Seoul this week.
North Korea’s “nuclear test preparations are complete and they are just looking for the right time,” lawmaker Ha Te-keung told reporters after a briefing by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service.
Kim Jong Un’s regime is battling a spiral COVID-19 outbreak with reports of nearly two million “fevers,” but both Washington and Seoul say it has not derailed Pyongyang’s testing plans.
After a record-breaking explosion of missile launches this year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, Kim could seek to distract North Koreans from the spiral health crisis by testing nuclear weapons, analysts say.
U.S. intelligence says there is a “real possibility” that Kim may choose to stage a “provocation” after Biden arrived in Seoul late Friday for his first visit to Asia as president, his administration said.
This could mean “more missile tests, long-range missile tests or a nuclear test, or both openly” during Biden’s visit, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Satellite images also indicate that North Korea is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test.
Both Seoul and Washington have been warning for weeks that it could come any day.
They have no barriers?
“During President Biden’s visit to South Korea and Japan, North Korea would like to draw worldwide attention by conducting a nuclear test,” Cheung Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute’s Center for North Korean Studies told AFP.
With the United States pressuring China, North Korea’s only major ally, to help curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and ICBM tests, leader Kim is arguing over what he will probably do.
As Kim is well aware of the stalemate in the UN Security Council following Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, “it looks like he will conduct a nuclear or ICBM test during President Biden’s visit to South Korea or Japan,” Cheung added.
Biden landed in South Korea on Friday for his first summit meeting with the country’s new president, Eun Sook-eol, who took office last week.
Talks between Washington and Pyongyang stalled for years after a remarkable display of diplomacy between then-US President Donald Trump and Kim – brokered by UN predecessor Moon Jae-in – and ended in failure.
Trump has held three head-to-head meetings with Kim and claimed the two were “in love,” but analysts say little progress has been made in dismantling the North’s nuclear program.
Kim recently said he was strengthening his nuclear arsenal “as fast as possible.”
Park Wan-gun, a professor at Iowa University, said part of the blame for the state of the game must be placed on Biden’s door because of his “strategic negligence” towards North Korea since taking office.
“In terms of nuclear disarmament and US-North Korea relations, we are back in a situation where it is difficult to find any progress,” Park said.
“There is really no way to stop North Korea now,” he said.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)