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ConflictsNorth Korea

North Korea preparing for imminent nuclear test, US says

May 7, 2022

The US State Department says North Korea could engage in a nuclear test "this month." US President Joe Biden's administration has struggled to restart diplomatic talks with Pyongyang as tensions escalate.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a military parade
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has refused to give up his country's controversial nuclear weapons programImage: Yonhap News Agency/picture alliance

The US warned Friday that North Korea could be ramping up its nuclear activities.

"The United States assesses that the DPRK is preparing its Punggye-ri test site and could be ready to test there as early as this month," State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter told journalists, using the formal acronym for North Korea. "This assessment is consistent with the DPRK's own recent public statements. We have shared this information with allies and partners and will continue closely coordinating with them as well."

The Punggye-ri site had been officially closed since 2018, but both the US and South Korea have recently said there has been new construction there. North Korea last tested a nuclear bomb in 2017.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to modernize the country's nuclear arsenal during a massive military parade last week. Kim also said North Korea could use nuclear weapons "preemptively" if provoked by the West.

Biden to visit East Asian allies 

US President Joe Biden is expected to travel to Japan and South Korea later this month. The two East Asian allies of the US have grown concerned about Pyongyang's military activities, with North Korea also stepping up missile tests this year.

North Korea launches long-range missile: DW's Frank Smith in Seoul

South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who is expected to be sworn in next week, has pledged a hard line towards North Korea, calling the country his "main enemy." Biden is expected to hold a summit with Yoon in Seoul from May 20 to May 22.

The Biden administration has sought to restart negotiations with North Korea, after nuclear talks stalled under former President Donald Trump's tenure. The US hopes that North Korea will pursue a path of denuclearization, with Washington willing to lift debilitating economic sanctions on Pyongyang in exchange. 

wd/aw (Reuters, AFP)