North Korea ‘ready to nuclear test’ with Biden in Seoul

SEOUL: North Korea is ready to conduct a nuclear test at any time, a South Korean lawmaker said on Thursday, with the United States warning it could happen while President Joe Biden is in Seoul this week.
North Korea’s “preparations for a nuclear test have been completed and they are just looking for the right moment,” lawmaker Ha Tae-keung told reporters after being briefed by Seoul’s National Intelligence Service.
Kim Jong Un’s regime is battling a spiraling Covid-19 outbreak with nearly two million reported “fever” cases, but both Washington and Seoul say this has not derailed Pyongyang’s testing plans.
After a record barrage of missile launches this year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, Kim may try to distract North Koreans from the growing health crisis with a nuclear weapons test, analysts say.
US intelligence believes there is a “genuine possibility” that Kim will choose to stage a “provocation” after Biden arrives in Seoul on Friday night for his first trip as president to Asia, his administration said.
This could mean “more missile tests, long-range missile tests, or a nuclear test, or frankly both” by the time of Biden’s trip, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Satellite images also indicate that North Korea is preparing to conduct what would be its seventh nuclear test.
Both Seoul and Washington have been warning for weeks that it could come any day.
“North Korea will want to attract world attention by conducting a nuclear test during President Biden’s visit to South Korea and Japan,” Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute’s Center for North Korea Studies told AFP.
Leader Kim is likely debating what to do, with the United States pressing North Korea’s only major ally, China, to help rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests.
But with Kim well aware of the impasse in the UN Security Council after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “it seems very likely that he will carry out nuclear or ICBM tests during President Biden’s visit to South Korea or Japan,” he added. Cheong.
Biden lands in South Korea on Friday for his first summit with the country’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office last week.
Talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled for years, after an extraordinary show of diplomacy between then-US President Donald Trump and Kim, which was brokered by Yoon’s predecessor Moon Jae-in, finally it ended in failure.
Trump held three headline-grabbing meetings with Kim and claimed the two were “in love,” but analysts say little or no progress has been made in dismantling the North’s nuclear programs.
Kim recently said he was building up his nuclear arsenal “as fast as possible.”
Some of the blame for the situation must fall on Biden’s doorstep due to his “strategic neglect” of North Korea since taking office, said Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University.
“In terms of denuclearization and ties between the United States and North Korea, we have returned to a situation where it is difficult to find any progress,” Park said.
“There is no way to really stop North Korea now,” he said.

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