A North Korean government official said on Wednesday that his country’s nuclear tests would “never stop” as long as the U.S. continued what they viewed as “acts of aggression.”
Speaking to CNN Wednesday, Sok Chol Won wouldn’t confirm when the country’s long-anticipated sixth nuclear test would take place but said it wouldn’t be influenced by outside events.
“The nuclear test is an important part of our continued efforts to strengthen our nuclear forces,” he said.
“As long as America continues its hostile acts of aggression, we will never stop nuclear and missile tests.”
Sok’s official title is director of North Korea’s Institute of Human Rights at the Academy of Social Sciences, but he was authorized to comment to CNN on all matters.
His comments came as top U.S. Cabinet members put a stress on economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to rein in North Korea, calling for a return to dialogue after a Senate briefing on the threat posed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program.
The calmer tone came in contrast to U.S. President Donald Trump’s tough rhetoric toward North Korea earlier this week.
Another nuclear test could further inflame an already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula, at a time when the Trump administration is moving large amounts of military hardware to the region.
The USS Vinson aircraft carrier is currently on its way to the peninsula, while a nuclear-powered submarine, USS Michigan, arrived in a South Korean port on Tuesday.
And the THAAD anti-missile system designed to mitigate the threat of North Korea’s missiles will be operational “in the coming days,” the top U.S. commander in the Pacific said.
Sok said Tuesday’s massive artillery drill, held on the 85th anniversary of North Korea’s army, was a warning to the U.S. President.
“This exercise is a direct response to acts of aggression by the United States,” he said.
But despite the dramatic drills and the deployment of military assets, analysts said that outright conflict between North Korea and the U.S. and its regional allies was unlikely.
“We are in a phony war phase,” Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at Sydney’s Lowy Institute, wrote for CNN.
“If there’s an underlying motive to Washington’s increased belligerence, it is to get the Chinese sufficiently rattled that they become serious about sanctions beyond tokenistic enforcement.”
Trump has repeatedly called on China, North Korea’s only real ally and main economic benefactor, to do more to bring its neighbour into line.