South Korean intelligence has produced a new assessment saying it believes the north is preparing to conduct a nuclear weapons test within weeks. Lawmakers were briefed this week over the imminent threat that such a rare test is likely.
“North Korea has completed preparations for a nuclear test and a possible window for carrying it out could be between Oct. 16 and Nov. 7, South Korean lawmakers briefed by its spy agency said on Wednesday,” Reuters writes, based on the public comments of legislators privy to the briefing.
If so, it would mark the seventh ever known nuclear test by North Korea, which hasn’t held one in five years, since 2017. All tests spanning back to 2006 were conduced in underground tunnels.
According to more from the South Korean intelligence assessment, per Reuters, “The timing of the test could be determined by events like the party congress in China, North Korea’s main ally, and the midterm elections in the United States, its chief rival, they said.”
“Also it would depend on whether Pyongyang can bring an outbreak of COVID-19 under control, they said,” the report continues. One South Korean lawmaker, Youn Kun-young, said further of the probable nuke test just around the corner:
“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.”
Meanwhile US Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to soon arrive in Seoul for an official visit, after attending the state funeral for assassinated former prime minister Shinzo Abe in Japan. Just on the eve of Harris’ trip, the north fired off two short-range ballistic missiles toward eastern waters.
The Wednesday launch is the latest in an uptick of missile tests which have come with semi-regular frequency coupled with increased threats from Pyongyang this year, also as a US aircraft carrier is off South Korea’ coast, participating in joint war games.
— BNN North Korea (@BNNNorthKorea) September 28, 2022
“Our military has strengthened surveillance and vigilance and is maintaining airtight readiness posture while closely cooperating with the United States,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement on Wednesday.