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US remains concerned about NK nuclear test, but also ready for contingency: State Dept.

State Department Press Secretary Ned Price is seen answering questions in a daily press briefing at the state department in Washington on Monday in this image captured from the department's website. (State Department's website)
State Department Press Secretary Ned Price is seen answering questions in a daily press briefing at the state department in Washington on Monday in this image captured from the department's website. (State Department's website)

WASHINGTON -- The United States continues to remain concerned that North Korea may conduct a nuclear test in the near future, a state department spokesperson said Monday.

Ned Price, however, said the US also remains prepared for such a contingency.

"So we remain concerned that the DPRK could seek a seventh nuclear test in the coming days," the department press secretary said when asked about US measures to deal with recent North Korean provocations.

"It's a concern we have warned about for some time, I can assure you that it is a contingency we have planned for, and it has been a concerted topic of discussion with allies and partners," added Price. DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Intelligence officials in Seoul and Washington have noted the North may have already completed all preparations for a nuclear test, which will be its seventh if conducted. North Korea conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in September 2017.

Such concerns also come amid a series of North Korean missile tests.

Pyongyang has staged 18 rounds of missile launches this year, with the latest round taking place over the weekend when the recalcitrant country fired eight short-range ballistic missiles.

"These launches are in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. They pose a threat to the DPRK's neighbors and to the community more broadly," Price said.

Still, the department spokesperson reaffirmed US commitment to engaging with the North.

"As you have heard from us before, we do remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK. We call on them to engage in dialogue," he said.

Price also dismissed the possibility of the US changing its course or policy toward North Korea in the near future when asked.

"It is no secret ... that the DPRK appears to be in a period of provocation," he said, noting the North's behavior has long rotated between periods of provocation and engagement.

"We have seen periods of provocation. We have seen periods of engagement. It is very clear at the moment that we are in the former. We are doing what we can to give way to a period that is marked more by the latter," he added. (Yonhap)

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