North Korea could conduct a seventh nuclear test at “any time” and has shown no interest in returning to negotiations, US Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim said on Tuesday.
North Korea has test-launched an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles this year and its officials have also used rhetoric that could suggest plans for the use of tactical nuclear weapons, Kim told reporters in a telephone briefing.
Kim reiterated US statements that Washington has assessed that North Korea is preparing to conduct a seventh nuclear test, and added, when asked when that might happen:
“On timing, I don't have anything more. They've obviously done the preparations..., and my understanding is they could test any time.”
Kim noted that on June 5, North Korea carried out test launches of eight ballistic missiles from various parts of the country, the largest number ever launched in a single day.
“North Korea has now launched 31 ballistic missiles in 2022, the most ballistic missile it has ever launched in a single year, surpassing its previous record of 25 in 2019. And it's only June,” Kim said.
He reiterated US willingness to engage diplomatically with North Korea without preconditions and said Washington was willing to address issues of concern to Pyongyang if it returned to talks.
“However, to date, the DPRK has not responded, and continues to show no indication that is interested in engaging,” he said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name.
Kim, who spoke from Jakarta, where he also serves as US ambassador to Indonesia, said he hoped that China would in future be more forthcoming in assisting efforts to persuade North Korea to denuclearize.