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    《TAIPEI TIMES》 N Korea might conduct nuclear test soon: official

    People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul yesterday.
Photo: AFP

    People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul yesterday. Photo: AFP

    2022/05/08 03:00

    THREAT: If Pyongyang miniaturizes and lightens its nuclear warheads, it could mount them on short-range missiles, posing a threat to South Korea and Japan

    / Reuters and AP, SEOUL

    North Korea might conduct a nuclear test between South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s inauguration on Tuesday and US President Joe Biden’s visit to Seoul later this month, South Korean National Intelligence Service Director Park Jie-won said yesterday.

    If North Korea miniaturizes and lightens its nuclear warheads, short-range missiles can also be equipped with nuclear warheads, and the potential nuclear test is being viewed as very important because it could threaten South Korea and Japan, Park told Yonhap news agency in a telephone call.

    His remarks came after the North yesterday fired a suspected ballistic missile designed to be launched from a submarine, South Korea’s military said, apparently continuing a provocative streak in weapons demonstrations that might culminate with a nuclear test in the coming weeks or months.

    South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launch occurred from waters near the eastern port city of Sinpo, where North Korea has a major shipyard building submarines, but it did not immediately say how far the missile flew.

    It also was not clear whether the launch would have involved an actual submarine or an underwater test platform.

    The Japanese Ministry of Defense also confirmed the launch, but it did not immediately release flight details.

    The launch was apparently North Korea’s first demonstration of a submarine-fired ballistic system since October last year, when it test-launched a new short-range missile from the 8.24 Yongung — its only known submarine capable of firing a missile — in what was its first underwater test launch since 2019.

    The launch came three days after the South Korean and Japanese militaries detected the North firing a suspected ballistic missile from near its capital, Pyongyang, on Wednesday, and three days before the inauguration of Yoon, who has vowed to take a tougher approach over the North’s nuclear ambitions.

    The latest launch was likely North Korea’s 15th round of missile firings this year, including its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) since 2017 that demonstrated potential range to reach the entirety of the US mainland.

    Experts say the unusually fast pace in testing activity underscores a brinkmanship aimed at forcing the US to accept the idea of the North as a nuclear power and remove crippling sanctions.

    There are also signs that North Korea is restoring tunnels at a nuclear testing ground, where it had conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in September 2017, in possible preparations for another explosive test.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has punctuated his missile tests with statements warning that the North could proactively use its nuclear weapons if threatened or provoked, which experts say possibly portends an escalatory nuclear doctrine that would create greater concerns for South Korea and Japan.

    Kim made one of those statements during a military parade in Pyongyang on Monday last week where he rolled out his ICBMs and what appeared to be a new type of missile designed to be fired from submarines.

    新聞來源:TAIPEI TIMES

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