North Korea preparing to test nuke – Seoul
North Korea is “ready” and likely to test a nuclear weapon, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo has told Sky News on Monday. While acknowledging it was “hard to know exactly when” the test might occur, “we gather they are prepared,” he said.
Pyongyang has not conducted any nuclear tests for years – the last took place in 2017, and a new test would be viewed as a major escalation in tensions. However it has launched more missiles in the last year than any other period since leader Kim Jong-un took over from his father in 2011.
Han explained that Seoul always had “preparations” in place for any nuclear saber-rattling by its northern neighbor, though “we cannot say at this moment what kind of response will be made.”
“But clearly we would like to have some kind of extended deterrence capabilities, including all kinds of options,” he explained.
Kim last month declared North Korea’s goal was to have the most powerful nuclear capability in the world. In a public order, he described the Hwasong-17 ICBM as the “world’s strongest strategic weapon.” Pyongyang fired the missile earlier in November as a gesture of “overwhelming nuclear deterrence” against the “military threat of the US” and its allies in the region.
Speaking to Sky News, Han rejected any criticism of his government’s hardline approach to negotiations with the North, arguing Seoul’s shift is merely “a natural course for any country increasing the level of self-reliance in terms of security.”
“We will secure peace on our terms, not on terms dictated by North Korea,” he said.
Last month, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol urged China to pressure North Korea to denuclearize, arguing it was in Beijing’s own interest as tensions with North Korea were bringing more American military assets to the region.
Han criticized China directly, stating he would like to see the regional powerhouse become a “more rule-based and more universal value respecting country.” He also complained about the impact of Beijing's zero-Covid policy on South Korea’s economy.
Seoul hinted last month that it was considering the possibility of acquiring nuclear weapons or hosting American nukes on its territory should the relationship with Pyongyang deteriorate further.