North Korea threatened with ‘maximized’ response to next nuke test
The United States, South Korea and Japan have vowed to “maximize” their response to North Korea’s next nuclear test, according to a senior security official in Seoul, amid repeated predictions that Pyongyang is preparing for another trial.
Speaking to reporters following a high-level meeting between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo on Thursday, South Korea's top security adviser Kim Sung-han said another North Korean nuclear test would prompt a stern reaction from the three allies.
“[We] agreed that there must not be naive thinking or reaction that North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests and that [a new test] will only be one more,” he said, adding “Should North Korea conduct its seventh nuclear test, our reaction will certainly be different from those until now.”
The comments followed a sit-down in Honolulu, Hawaii involving Kim, US national security advisor Jake Sullivan, and their Japanese counterpart, Takeo Akiba. A White House readout on the meeting said the three officials discussed “protecting and advancing the rules based international order,” and “condemned the [North Korea’s] continued development of its ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs,” among other things.
However, the security officials did not elaborate on what additional steps would be taken in reaction to Pyongyang’s next test, with Kim only stating the response would be “maximized” in an attempt to convince North Korea it was the “wrong decision.”
While Pyongyang’s most recent atomic test, the sixth in its history, was carried out in September 2017, officials in the US and South Korea have claimed the country has completed “all preparations” for another nuclear trial and is merely waiting for the right moment. According to Seoul’s former intelligence chief Park Jie-won, that could come as soon as November, “ahead of the midterm election” in the US. “They are going to do it in order to demonstrate… that [their] missile can fly to the US, carrying a miniaturized and lighter warhead, and to deal a blow to the Joe Biden administration,” Park claimed during a radio interview last month.
North Korea has not announced plans for a test, but recently vowed to advance the development of its nuclear arsenal “at the fastest possible speed,” and warned that its “nuclear war deterrent” is “fully ready” to respond to any threats.
The three-way meeting in Hawaii on Thursday came as the United States and South Korea completed their latest round of large-scale military drills, which Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned as provocative, seeing them as a rehearsal for an invasion.