S. Korea's senior official says N. Korea will not likely conduct nuclear test by this weekend, but ICBM test appears to be imminent
Updated: 2022-05-18 17:07:17 KST
A senior official from the South Korea's presidential office says that North Korea appears to be getting ready to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The First Deputy Chief of the Presidential National Security Office, Kim Tae-hyo, told reporters on Wednesday that the possibility of North Korea conducting a nuclear test by this weekend is "relatively low", but preparations for an ICBM launch are believed to be "imminent".
He added that if there's a provocation from the North during Biden's visit, they have a "Plan B", which would secure the readiness posture of the combined U.S. and South Korea military forces, even if it requires changing the summit schedule.
This comes hours after CNN citing an unnamed U.S. official reported that North Korea appears to be preparing for a possible ICBM test within the next two to three days.
The North also appears to be continuing efforts to prepare for a nuclear test at its Punggye-ri nuclear facility.
A U.S.-based think tank, CSIS said continued activity outside and around the new portal for one of the tunnels was observed in satellite images on Tuesday.
It said the satellite images showed both the original portal that was destroyed in 2018 and the new portal under construction near Tunnel Number 3.
The think tank also said a probable compressor and pump house building is located around 45 meters from the new portal, and that several cables, most likely for power, run straight from the building into the tunnel.
An expert says the cables leading to the tunnel does mean that the North is preparing for a nuclear test, but it also means that the test will not be carried out right away.
"The cables are installed to light up the tunnel, or to operate ventilation systems. When the cables are removed and a shield is installed, that's when it's ready for a nuclear test. But for now, because the cables are still there, we can tell that the preparations are still underway."
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said there aren't any expectations that North Korea will put its nuclear test on hold because of the COVID-19 outbreak, as the regime never prioritizes the humanitarian concerns of its own people over what he referred to as "destabilizing programs."
The remarks come as the State Department earlier assessed that the North may conduct a nuclear test as early as this month.
Bae Eun-ji, Arirang News.