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By Ryan Pickrell
North Korea appears ready for another round of nuclear weapons testing, South Korea’s military said Friday.
North Korea has launched at least six missiles and tested a high-thrust rocket engine, possibly for an intercontinental ballistic missile, since President Donald Trump took office. North Korea, however, has yet to carry out a nuclear weapons test; it did two last year.
It is unclear if the North will conduct a nuclear test in the near future, but it is ready to do so.
“Our assessment is that North Korea is ready to conduct a nuclear test if they get the go ahead from Kim Jong-un,” an official from the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters Friday, according to the Korea Herald. “We believe they have been preparing for a long period of time.”
South Korean defense officials explained that a test could come at “any time.” U.S. officials have provided a more specific time frame. “The test could come as early as the end of the month,” a U.S. official told Fox News Thursday.
Recent satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site revealed extensive tunneling for a future nuclear weapons test. Observers suspect North Korea has finished digging the necessary tunnels; however, the South has yet to detect the movement of nuclear devices and monitoring equipment.
The Pentagon and the South Korean military are closely monitoring the situation.
North Korea may also be preparing additional missile testing.
“In response to the U.S. and the South Korean puppet constantly conducting the joint military drills, labeling it as annual exercises, our Strategic Force has been regularizing the ballistic rocket-launching drill,” the Rodong Sinmun, the paper of the ruling Worker’s Party, wrote Friday, referencing the annual Foal Eagle joint military exercises.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned North Korea’s recent missile launches Thursday.
“There is no country in the world where an army, which is responsible for national defense, stages military drills caring about the approval of the United Nations and the provisions of international conventions,” the North’s state-run newspaper said in response.