Envoy says US allies are preparing for North Korea’s nuclear test

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – President Joe Biden’s Special Representative for North Korea said Friday that the United States is “preparing …

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – President Joe Biden’s Special Representative for North Korea said Friday that the United States is “preparing for all contingencies” in close coordination with its South Korean and Japanese allies, as they monitor a possible agreement. explosion. which, as outside officials say, may be inevitable.

South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials said they had found North Korea’s attempts to prepare its northeastern test site for another nuclear test, its seventh since 2006 and the first since September 2017, when it claimed to have detonated a fusion bomb to install her. its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim was in Seoul for a tripartite meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts to discuss the growing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

“The United States estimates that the DPRK is preparing for its seventh nuclear test at its Pungye-ry test site. This assessment is in line with the latest public statements by the DPRK, ”Kim said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the DPRK.

In addition to coordinating with Seoul and Tokyo on emergency planning, Washington is also ready to make “both short-term and long-term adjustments to our military position, as needed and in response to any provocation by the DPRK and strengthen defenses and strengthen to protect our allies in the region, ”Kim said.

Funakoshi Takehira, Japan’s director general for Asia and Oceania, said a number of ballistic tests of the North this year and possible preparations for nuclear tests underscored the need for a tougher international response and expressed regret at the UN Security Council’s inaction over recent tests.

Kim Gan, South Korea’s representative in the nuclear envoy, said North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles would only strengthen security cooperation between the United States and its Asian allies and deepen North Korea’s isolation and economic problems.

“That’s why it’s so important to get North Korea back on the path to dialogue and diplomacy,” he said.

Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since 2019 due to disagreements over the exchange of US-led sanctions against North Korea and North Korea’s disarmament steps.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expanded his ballistic missile program amid a diplomatic pause, and a nuclear test would boost his market power aimed at consolidating North Korea’s status as a nuclear power and negotiating economic concessions and security concessions from a position of strength.

North Korea has already conducted missile tests 17 times in 2022, including its first ICBM demonstrations in nearly five years, using an enabling environment to promote arms development as the UN Security Council remains divided over Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Russia and China last week vetoed a resolution proposed by the United States that would impose additional sanctions on North Korea over its latest ballistic tests on May 25, which the South Korean military said included an ICBM on a medium-range trajectory and two weapons. short range. These tests came when Biden completed his trip to South Korea and Japan, where he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defending both allies in the face of the North’s nuclear threat.

Linda Thomas Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Washington would continue to seek additional sanctions if North Korea conducts a new nuclear test.

Kim Jong Un’s pressure campaigns are unlikely to be prevented by a deadly coronavirus outbreak in his largely unvaccinated autocracy.

Dr Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization for Emergencies, said Wednesday that the UN Health Agency believes the situation with the virus in North Korea is “worsening, not better”, given the lack of public health funding, despite Pyongyang’s recent statements about COVID-19 there are slowing down.

North Korea has so far ignored U.S. and South Korean proposals for vaccines and other aid. Experts say the North is more likely to take drugs from China, its main ally and economic lifeline.

“We are concerned about how the outbreak could affect the people of North Korea, the economy and the already difficult food situation after these events,” said Son Kim, urging the North to respond to proposals for outside help.

North Korea says it has so far found 3.9 million people with symptoms of fever, but health officials have confirmed only a few cases like COVID-19, probably due to a lack of materials for testing.

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