North Korea is “ready” to test a nuclear weapon, and will likely do so, according to a chilling prediction from South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.
In an interview with Sky News, Han said though it’s “hard to know exactly when” the test will take place, “we gather that they are prepared.”
The grim assessment comes near the end of year in which Pyongyang fired a record number of missiles — including an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range to strike the entire mainland US.
Washington swiftly condemned the November launch of the ICBM — overseen by North Korea leader Kim Jong Un — and vowed to take “all necessary measures” to guarantee the safety of its territory and its allies South Korea and Japan.
Tensions in the region have been high in recent months, with North Korea firing dozens of missiles in retaliation for the large-scale joint military drills between the US and South Korea, which Pyongyang viewed as escalatory.
Should North Korea conduct a nuclear weapon test, it will be the first since 2017 when the testing program was suspended.
“We always have preparations for that kind of very undesirable action,” said Han. “We cannot say at this moment what kind of response will be made, but clearly we would like to have some kind of extended deterrence capabilities, including all kind of options.”
During a meeting in Indonesia Tuesday, Seoul’s envoy for North Korea said South Korea, Japan and the US will coordinate sanctions against the rogue nation as it is “becoming more aggressive and blatant in its nuclear threat.”
“North Korea’s further provocation will be met by a firm and united response from the international community,” said Kim Gunn, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs.
Decades of US-led sanctions have failed to halt the isolated nation’s increasingly sophisticated missile and nuclear weapon programs.
No new sanctions have been imposed on North Korea this year as it carried out more than 60 ballistic missile launches banned by UN Security Council resolutions.
China and Russia, two of the Security Council’s veto-wielding members, have blocked recent efforts to introduce more UN sanctions
Sung Kim, US special representative for North Korea, said at Tuesday’s meeting in Jakarta the behavior of Pyongyang presented one of the most serious security challenges to the region and beyond.
“[North Korea] presents challenges that can only be successfully addressed when the international community stands together and speaks with a unified voice,” said Kim,
South Korean leadership has made it clear it expects China to play a key role in fostering dialogue with North Korea.
Han told Sky News his goverment will “secure our peace on our terms, not on terms dictated by North Korea.”
With Post wires