COVID-wracked North Korea may greet Biden with a missile test

A new report by the US-based Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS) said commercial satellite imagery shows work continuing at the nuclear site, whose underground testing tunnels were shuttered in 2018 after leader Kim Jong Un declared a moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests.

He has since said that the country is no longer bound by that moratorium because of a lack of progress in talks with the United States. The North resumed testing ICBMs in March.

“Refurbishment work and preparations at Tunnel No. 3 has been proceeding over the past three months, and presumably will be nearing completion for the oft-speculated seventh nuclear test,” the CSIS report on the nuclear site said. “The timing of this test rests solely within the hands of Kim Jong Un.”

North Korea has also resumed construction at a long-dormant nuclear reactor that would increase its production of plutonium for nuclear weapons by a factor of 10, researchers at the US-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) reported last week, citing satellite imagery.

Analysts say that even if North Korea tests a weapon, South Korea and the United States should offer unconditional COVID-19 aid.

North Korea sent aircraft to China to pick up medical supplies days after it confirmed its first COVID-19 outbreak, media reported on Tuesday, but Pyongyang has yet to respond to offers of aid from South Korea. Washington says that it supports providing assistance to North Korea, but that there were no current plans to provide vaccines.