The United States said on Friday it believes North Korea may be preparing a nuclear test as soon as this month, its first since 2017, AFP reported.
"The United States assesses that the DPRK is preparing its Punggye-ri test site and could be ready to test there as early as this month," State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"This assessment is consistent with the DPRK's own recent public statements," she told reporters.
"We have shared this information with allies and partners and will continue closely coordinating with them as well."
North Korea has conducted 14 weapons tests since January, including the firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.
More recently, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test-firing of a new guided weapons system to improve the country’s "tactical nukes".
US President Joe Biden later this month travels to Japan and South Korea, where concerns about Pyongyang are expected to be high on the agenda.
A North Korean test could coincide with Biden's visit or with the May 10 inauguration in South Korea of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed to take a harder line on Pyongyang, noted AFP.
North Korea has ramped up its missile tests ever since talks with Washington on denuclearization failed.
Former US President Donald Trump tried to reach an agreement with North Korea while in office. Kim and Trump met in Hanoi in 2019 for a summit that left nuclear talks at a standstill.
The pair had met three times since June 2018 but made little progress towards denuclearization.
The Biden administration reached out to North Korea shortly after taking office, but the country did not respond to those overtures.
The Biden administration says it is ready to start talks with North Korea without preconditions, but would pursue working-level negotiations and not the pageantry of another summit.
"The United States remains committed to seeking diplomacy with the DPRK and calls on the DPRK to engage in dialogue," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.
"At the same time, we will continue to address the DPRK's unlawful cyber activities, as well as violations of UN Security Council resolutions," he added.
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)