North Korea nuclear test may take place between October 16 and November 7, South Korea says
South Korea’s intelligence agency briefed lawmakers that North Korea may conduct its first nuclear test between October 16 and November 7. It would be Pyongyang’s first nuclear test in five years.
Two lawmakers told reporters after the briefing by the South Korean National Intelligence Service that Pyongyang has completed its preparations for a potential nuclear test with a possible timeframe of testing sometime between mid-October and early November.
The preparations were done underground at the Punggye-ri test tunnel, where North Korea conducted six underground tests starting in 2006.
The timing of the nuclear tests may be determined by certain events such as the party congress in China, which is North Korea’s main ally, as well as the midterm elections in the United States in November. The lawmakers also said the timing could also be determined on whether Pyongyang can control its outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
“The NIS said they cannot calculate the probability but assumed that North Korea would make a comprehensive decision based on international relations and its COVID situation,” said lawmaker Youn Kun-young.
Yoo Sang-bum, the other lawmaker briefed by the intelligence agency, said Pyongyang’s claim of having victory over COVID-19 was “unreliable” as North Korea has repeatedly gone on lockdown and reopened areas near its border with China where “mass vaccinations” were being done.
Yoo’s comments follow North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s previous suggestion that Pyongyang may begin COVID-19 vaccinations in November, warning of a resurgence in outbreaks as immunity levels that were developed from previous infections would go down around October.
Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force said Thursday that it would begin joint military drills with South Korea and the United States. The MSDF said the drills, including anti-submarine exercises, would take place in the Sea of Japan, which South Korea also calls the East Sea.
US Vice President Kamala Harris is currently in South Korea on a visit that aims to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to the country as Pyongyang continues its weapons tests. Harris met with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul for talks, praising the alliance between the countries.
Yoon, who was sworn into office in May, called Harris’s visit “another turning point” in strengthening ties between the US and South Korea.