The US believes that North Korea may be “tempted to take another provocative action” such as a nuclear weapons test next week as Pyongyang gears up for the birth anniversary celebrations of its founder.
“We, in cooperation and coordination with our allies and partners, are prepared to deal with whatever they may undertake, and I want to emphasise that we obviously hope that they will refrain from further provocation,” US special envoy for North Korea Sung Kim said. “We obviously hope not, but we will be prepared.”
Ned Price, the US Department of State spokesperson, said on 5 April that special envoy Mr Kim met Liu Xiaoming, China’s special representative for Korean peninsula affairs, in Washington DC to discuss recent developments in North Korea.
North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch in March was also criticised by the US envoy.
“We have repeatedly offered to meet the DPRK [North Korea] to discuss any and all issues, and yet the DPRK has declined our invitation to dialogue,” the special envoy said during the briefing. “Instead, they have initiated a series of missile tests that recently culminated in at least three ICBM launches.”
He claimed that these actions pose a “serious threat to regional stability.”
“Provocative actions by the North Koreans require us to have a decisive response in the Security Council, and this is why we have, in cooperation with our partners, proposed a new UN Security Council resolution. We have had discussions with the PRC and Russia,” Mr Kim said.
“I cannot report that we have had productive discussions with them thus far, but I would defer to my very capable colleagues in New York to continue that effort,” he added.
“I know that there is an overwhelming consensus that the Security Council needs to respond to these blatant violations of multiple Security Council resolutions, and we hope that Russia and China will agree that it’s in their interest to work with us on this new Security Council resolution.”
He also added that “these launches demonstrate the DPRK continues to prioritise its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs at the expense of regional and international security”.
This prioritisation is also at the expense of the North Korean people, Mr Kim said. “The government has chosen to deploy its limited resources to fund illegal weapons programs even as the humanitarian situation in the country has grown increasingly dire.”
Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister — Kim Yo-jong — warned on Monday that if Pyongyang was threatened by South Korea, it would use nuclear weapons.
Tensions between Pyongyang and other countries have heightened after North Korea accelerated its weapons tests this year, including its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) since 2017.
The move sparked concern among analysts and experts that the North Korean leader may be laying the groundwork for its first nuclear weapons test in nearly five years. US president Joe Biden and Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida also condemned the launch during a meeting of G7 and European leaders in Brussels.
However, South Korea had dismissed the event as a bid to deceive its neighbours and said last week that it believes the North actually fired the previously-launched Hwasong-15 missile that day and only passed it off as a huge, new ICBM.