South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol is on “twenty-four-hour standby” for the possibility of a nuclear test by North Korea, Yonhap News Agency reported earlier this week.
"As North Korea's provocations have become more frequent, we're putting all of our effort into maintaining a readiness posture with a sense of alertness," an official associated with the president said, per Yonhap. “It's a twenty-four-hour readiness regime.”
While the North Korean regime has conducted twenty-six missile launches this year, including another wave in recent weeks, it has not carried out any nuclear tests.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has predicted that North Korea will conduct a nuclear test between October 16 and November 7, meaning that such a test would take place before the U.S. midterm elections.
According to Reuters, South Korea began conducting its annual Hoguk defense drills earlier this week.
"The forces will conduct real-world day and night maneuvers simulated to counter North Korea's nuclear, missile and other various threats so that they can master wartime and peacetime mission performance capabilities and enhance interoperability with some U.S. forces,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry said, per Reuters.
However, the Kim regime has been talking about its nuclear capabilities.
“Our nuclear combat forces … proved again their full preparedness for actual war to bring the enemies under their control,” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said on October 13, per CNN, which cited the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“It is worth remembering that the details of these reports cannot be trusted,” Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, told CNN. “The Kim regime is sometimes surprisingly transparent about weapons development goals, but it also tends to exaggerate strength and capabilities.”
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear arms control expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, argued in an op-ed earlier this month for the New York Times that perhaps the West should accept that North Korea is and will remain a nuclear power.
“It’s time for the United States to face reality,” Lewis wrote in the Times. “Efforts to encourage Mr. Kim to abandon his weapons have not only failed, but he is as clear as ever about using them to protect his country. Washington needs to contemplate the unthinkable: accepting that North Korea is a nuclear state. ... The Ukraine war has caused a deep rift between the United States and Russia and, to a lesser extent, Russia’s ally, China. The three big powers were crucial participants in previous multiparty negotiations to disarm North Korea, which ultimately failed. But Russia and China are now less likely to support U.S. pressure on North Korea.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.