North Korea Has Finished Prep for Nuclear Test, South Korea Says

(Bloomberg) -- North Korea has finished preparations for a nuclear test, South Korea’s president told parliament, stoking concerns that Pyongyang’s first blast of an atomic device in five years could be imminent.

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“We assess that it has already completed preparations for a seventh nuclear test,” Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday, adding Kim Jong Un’s regime has defended the preemptive use of nuclear weapons.

The US, South Korea and Japan have all pledged stern and united punishment for a nuclear test, which would be in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. John Kirby, a spokesman for President Joe Biden’s National Security Council, told reporters in Washington the US believes that North Korea “could conduct a nuclear test at any time.”

The US push to isolate Russia over Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, coupled with increasing animosity toward China, has allowed Kim to strengthen his nuclear deterrent without fear of facing more sanctions at the UN Security Council. There’s almost no chance Russia or China, which have veto power at the council, would support any measures against North Korea, as they did in 2017 following a series of weapons tests that prompted former President Donald Trump to warn of “fire and fury.”

Kim, who last set off a nuclear device in 2017, may be looking to conduct a test to enhance his state’s ability to miniaturize a warhead to fit onto its new missiles designed to strike South Korea and Japan, which host the bulk of America’s troops in Asia. Kim is also looking to increase the power of nuclear devices that would be mounted on long-range rockets designed to hit the US mainland.

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