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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

North’s nuke test likely during Harris’ Japan-SKorea visit: US official

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Washington: North Korea may well conduct a nuclear test during US Vice President Kamala Harris’ upcoming trip to Japan and South Korea as Pyongyang has been preparing for such a test, a senior US administration official has said.

The official warned on Friday the North will face serious consequences should it choose to conduct a new test.

“It is possible and we previously said that the DPRK is preparing to conduct a nuclear test,” the official said when asked about the possibility of a North Korean nuclear test during Harris’ trip to the Northeast Asian countries next week.

The official noted Pyongyang has been said to be preparing for a nuclear test for some time.

“We have made clear that such a test would result in additional actions by the United States to demonstrate our ironclad commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea and to our Japanese allies,” said the official.

“We have made clear how concerned we have been by North Korean provocations and destabilizing behavior and a nuclear test would certainly be in that category,” the official added, also noting the issue of North Korean provocations will “certainly” be discussed when Harris meets her South Korean counterpart.

Harris is scheduled to make a four-day visit to Japan from September 26, leading a presidential delegation to the funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

She will arrive in South Korea on September 29 for a meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, the official said in a telephonic press briefing. It will mark her first trip to both Japan and South Korea since taking office early last year, the yonhap news agency reported.

In addition to Yoon, Harris is also scheduled to meet with South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, who will be leading South Korea’s presidential delegation to Abe’s funeral.

The Harris-Han meeting will be held in Tokyo on September 27, according to the U.S. administration official.

The official said Harris will have an opportunity to engage with US troops stationed in South Korea.

“She wants to go there (South Korea) and make clear that the United States has a very strong commitment to the Republic of Korea’s security, and that’s what she’s going to be signaling and that’s what she’s gonna be conveying to the president,” the official said of Harris’ trip to Seoul.

The official declined to comment on whether the vice president will be working directly to help mend relations between Seoul and Tokyo during her visit to the region, but said the US certainly encourages its two allies to improve their ties, the yonhap report said.

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