North Korea could conduct seventh nuclear test ‘at any time’ warns US official

‘They have obviously done the preparations in Punggye-ri and I understand they could test any time’

Related: South Korea and US launch missiles in response to North Korea tests

North Korea could conduct a new nuclear test “at any time”, an American official has warned.

Special US representative for North Korea Sung Kim said on Tuesday that Pyongyang appears to have completed preparations for its seventh nuclear test.

He warned that there would be a “swift response” from the US and its allies and that Washington will remain open to a dialogue.

When asked if North Korea might conduct a nuclear test as early as this week, he responded: “On timing, I don’t have anything more.”

“They have obviously done the preparations in Punggye-ri and I understand they could test any time.”

North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests at the key site of Punggye-ri so far, in October 2006, May 2009, February 2013, January 2016, September 2016 and September 2017.

“All I can say is that we have made it very clear to them that we are open to finding a meaningful diplomatic path forward, and we hope that it will refrain from provocative actions and return to the table to discuss with us,” the US official said.

He added: “What we have made clear to them is that we are willing to address issues of concern to them. Whether we find those issues to be legitimate or not, we are willing to sit down with them and give them an opportunity to explain their position and see if there’s a way for us to address their concerns.”

The US envoy also said that there was no “end date” to the US proposal to engage with North Korea.

“On the timeline for commitment to diplomatic approach, I mean, there is no end date for that. I think we will continue to remain committed to pursuing a viable diplomatic path.”

He, however, noted that the Kim Jong-un government has to date, not responded, “and continues to show no indication that it is interested in engaging”.

He said that he will be in “close touch” with the US’s allies and partners to be able to respond quickly and swiftly should Pyongyang proceed with a nuclear test.

North Korea has tested an unprecedented number of missiles this year. It has tested 31 missiles so far as compared to 25 during the whole of its last record-breaking year, 2019.

“And it’s only June,” Mr Kim told the media.

US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman told reporters that any such test would be “in complete violation of UN Security Council resolutions”.

She added: “I believe that not only ROK [South Korea] and the United States and Japan but the entire world will respond in a strong and clear manner.”

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