‘NKorea could hold nuke test in mid-April’

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SPEAKING AGAINST SEOUL This Jan. 20, 2022 file photo shows people watching a television news program broadcasting file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul. AFP PHOTO

SPEAKING AGAINST SEOUL This Jan. 20, 2022 file photo shows people watching a television news program broadcasting file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul. AFP PHOTO

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Pyongyang is ignoring the United States’ overtures for talks and could be planning its first nuclear weapon test in nearly five years for its April 15 holiday, the US State Department’s top North Korea envoy said on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

Sung Kim, the Special Representative for North Korea Policy, said Washington thought Pyongyang could be planning a big show of its growing nuclear weapons capacity on the annual holiday next week, which would celebrate the 110th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, who founded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“We are worried that, in connection with the upcoming April 15 anniversary, the DPRK may be tempted to take another provocative action,” Kim told reporters, referring to the East Asian country’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test launches.

“I don’t want to speculate too much, but I think it could be another missile launch. It could be a nuclear test,” he said.

North Korea has tested nuclear weapons several times starting in 2006, with the last so far in 2017.

Pyongyang has continued to ignore Washington’s overtures to resume discussions about removing all nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula, Kim said.

“We have not received any response from Pyongyang, which is very disappointing, because we have sent several messages, both public and private, inviting them to a dialogue without any condition,” he said.

“Instead, they have initiated a series of missile tests that recently culminated in at least three ICBM launches. These actions pose a serious threat to regional stability,” the envoy added.

Kim also said China and Russia were not helping US President Joe Biden’s push to restart talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Talks aimed at containing Pyongyang’s nuclear threat appeared to gain traction under the administration of then-president Donald Trump but then stopped.

After Biden took office, North Korea began a series of missile tests, 13 in all, that culminated last month with the test of a ballistic missile that could potentially deliver a nuclear warhead to the eastern US.

The tests have alarmed North Korea’s immediate neighbors, South Korea and Japan.

On Tuesday, Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister Kim Yo Jong warned that Pyongyang would use its nuclear weapons to “eliminate” South Korea’s army if Seoul launches a preemptive strike.

Sung said Washington was pushing for a fresh resolution condemning Pyongyang’s actions at the United Nations Security Council.

But he noted that in six earlier efforts this year, Russia and China “have consistently blocked our efforts to produce a UN public statement.”

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