“So far, the DPRK has not responded and still shows no indication that it is interested in participating. Instead, we have seen a marked increase in the range of ballistic missile tests,” said Sung Kim.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday that North Korea is “preparing its nuclear test site”, and that the situation surrounding North Korea’s nuclear program is “extremely concerning because we have seen rapid progress in every line.”
“They are building more facilities to enrich uranium. They are running their plant for reprocessing, which is removing plutonium from the fuel, which is another way to get more material for more bombs,” IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told CNN.
Sung Kim said, as other US officials said, that the US “estimates that the DPRK is preparing to conduct a seventh nuclear test.” He added that he did not have any specific information about the exact timing of a possible nuclear test.
North Korea now launched 31 ballistic missiles in 2022, the most it has launched in a single year, overtaking its previous record of 25 in 2019.
South Korea and the United States retaliated on Monday by firing eight missiles of their own, the third time this year that they have conducted reciprocal missile tests.
The allies sent the planes — South Korean F-35A, F-15K and FK-16 fighters and US F-16s — over the Yellow Sea, known as South Korea’s West Sea, on Tuesday morning after North Korea launched a missile. Eight short-range ballistic missiles on Sunday.
Despite North Korea’s continued provocations, Sung Kim said the Biden administration is ready to deal diplomatically with the country without preconditions and encouraged allies and partners to engage diplomatically with North Korea as well. Sung Kim has not set a deadline on when the Biden administration will abandon the pursuit of diplomacy.
“Regarding the timeline for our commitment to a diplomatic approach, there is no final date for that. I believe we will remain committed to following a viable diplomatic path to pursuing the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and addressing issues of importance to both sides,” Sung Kim said, noting The Biden administration will also keep the sanctions in place.
Brad Lyndon and Youngjung Seo contributed reporting.
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