Washington and Seoul warn of another North Korean nuclear test

The United States and South Korea on Monday multiplied their warnings to try to dissuade North Korea from conducting another nuclear test, promising a “quick” response with more sanctions and even an overhaul of Americans’ “military stance”.

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“We remain concerned about the prospect of a seventh nuclear test,” but the first since 2017, chief of US diplomacy Antony Blinken told the Washington press, reiterating that Pyongyang is “preparing to that effect.”

At his side, his South Korean counterpart Park Jin went even further, assuring that the North had “completed preparations”. “I think all that’s missing is a political decision” to take action, he said.

Washington has believed since last month that Pyongyang is preparing to break its five-year moratorium on nuclear tests.

Such an act, which would be viewed by the international community as yet another “provocation” in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, would antagonize the United States, which has not stopped turning to the North Koreans for help the dialogue with a view to “denuclearization”.

President Joe Biden’s strategy has so far not borne fruit, according to his government’s admission. On the contrary, it has been beset by an unprecedented string of North Korean ballistic missile launches, including intercontinental ones, since the beginning of the year.

“We will continue to try to get in touch with North Korea, we are in favor of looking for a diplomatic route,” affirmed Antony Blinken, reaffirming his offer of dialogue “without preconditions” – and thus also when Pyongyang leads its nuclear test. Ministers from the two allied countries also reiterated their offers of assistance in the face of the Covid-19 wave the North is facing.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen from North Korea so far has been either a lack of response or a response in the form of increased missile testing,” the US Secretary of State said.

He therefore “admonished” the reclusive East Asian country “to refrain from any further destabilizing activity”.

And he warned that Americans would not stand idly by.

“We are in very close contact with our close allies and partners starting with the Republic of Korea as well as Japan and others for quick response,” he added.

This answer will come in the form of new “international sanctions” and increased “isolation,” explained the South Korean minister, if possible via an additional resolution of the UN Security Council – even though Russia and China have so far opposed it with their veto rights.

He spoke to his American counterpart about “concrete ways of filling the gaps in the application of existing sanctions” in order to prevent them from fleeing. Antony Blinken assured him that he would continue to “keep up the pressure” by targeting those who are helping Pyongyang evade punitive measures.

But beyond economic isolation, “we are preparing for all scenarios (…) and we are ready to adjust our military stance as much as necessary in the short and long term,” he said, warning nonetheless.

Seoul and Washington have also spoken out in favor of an “enhanced deterrent,” with which the United States undertakes to use military force to deter the North from attacking the South.

Finally, Park Jin called on China, which remains North Korea’s mainstay while speaking out against its nuclear program, to “play a very positive role in convincing Kim Jong-un to “make the right decision.”

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