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US closely monitoring N. Korea for possible provocation: State Dept.

Ned Price, US Department of State press secretary, is seen speaking in a press briefing at the state department in Washington on Thursday in this image captured from the department's website. (US Department of State's website)
Ned Price, US Department of State press secretary, is seen speaking in a press briefing at the state department in Washington on Thursday in this image captured from the department's website. (US Department of State's website)

WASHINGTON -- The United States is closely monitoring North Korea for possible provocations, a US state department spokesperson said Thursday.

Ned Price made the remarks as Pyongyang celebrates the 110th anniversary of the birthday of its late founding leader Kim Il-sung on Friday (Seoul time).

"What I can say and what we know is that the DPRK in the past has used the occasion of holidays and other notable occasions within the DPRK to engage in provocations," the spokesperson said in a press briefing.

"So of course, we're closely watching for the possibility," he added. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Pyongyang has so far staged 12 rounds of missile launches this year, including seven rounds in January alone that marked the largest number of missile tests it has conducted in a single month.

Earlier reports have also pointed to ongoing work to repair underground tunnels at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site that were purportedly demolished in 2018, suggesting a possible resumption of North Korean nuclear tests in the future.

The North had maintained a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing since late 2017 until it fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on March 24.

The state department earlier said US Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim will visit South Korea next week for talks with his South Korean counterpart, Noh Kyu-duk.

Price said Kim's visit will be part of what he called regular engagement to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the international response to the North's recent missile launches.

The spokesperson also said he was not aware of plans for Kim to meet North Korean officials while in the region when asked.

The US special envoy earlier said the North remained unresponsive to numerous US offers for dialogue as of last Wednesday. (Yonhap)

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