South Korea, Japan and the United States on Tuesday warned North Korea of harsher sanctions and deeper isolation if it went ahead with a fifth nuclear test or other provocations, AFP reported.
The warning, which followed a trilateral meeting of top diplomatic officials, came amid growing speculation that Pyongyang is in the final stages of preparing an underground nuclear detonation at its Punggye-ri test site.
“If North Korea conducts another provocation despite the international community’s repeated warnings, it will face even stronger sanctions and deeper isolation,” South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-Nam was quoted as having said.
Lim was briefing reporters after talks with his American and Japanese counterparts, Tony Blinken and Akitaka Saiki.
“We will not tolerate another provocation by North Korea,” Lim said, according to AFP.
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye told her cabinet Monday that intelligence sources had detected signs that Pyongyang was preparing a new test, an assessment echoed the same day by her defense ministry.
The missile test late last week took place on the birthday of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-Sung. The missile, said to have been a medium-range Musudan missile, disappeared from surveillance radar mere seconds after launch in what appears to have been a midair explosion.
North Korea is gearing up for a rare and much-hyped ruling party congress early next month, at which leader Kim Jong-Un is expected to take credit for pushing the country’s nuclear weapons program to new heights, noted AFP.
Numerous analysts have suggested the regime might carry out a fifth nuclear test as a display of strength just before the congress opens.
Describing North Korea as the region’s “most acute threat,” Blinken said the U.S. and its two key Asian allies had agreed to expand cooperation on sanctions implementation in response to the North’s “provocative and destabilizing behavior.”
The sanctions agreed by the UN Security Council after the North’s January 6 test were the toughest imposed to date on North Korea over its nuclear weapons programm.
Blinken said the measures were only just beginning to bite and it would take time for North Korea to really feel the extra pressure.