Blinken’s comments, made with his South Korean counterpart at a press conference at the State Department, were made in connection with the fact that North Korea has carried out numerous missile launches, and the US is concerned about a possible nuclear test in Pyongyang.
“We remain concerned about the prospects for what will be the seventh multi-administration nuclear test,” Blinken said. “We know that the North Koreans have prepared for such a test. We are very vigilant in this regard.”
Blinken said the US is “preparing for all contingencies” and is in “very close contact” with partners such as South Korea and Japan “to be able to respond quickly” if the North Koreans conduct such a test.
A senior U.S. diplomat said the U.S. intends to “talk about how we are scaling up joint military exercises for defense and readiness by training around the Korean missile.”
“And of course we want to make sure that we have all the defensive capabilities to deal with any possible provocation or aggression from North Korea,” he added.
Last week, US and South Korean fighter jets carried out a joint flyby over the Yellow Sea, a show of force that came just days after North Korea launched eight short-range ballistic missiles.
“South Korea and the United States have demonstrated their strong ability and willingness to quickly and accurately strike any provocations by North Korea by demonstrating their joint defensive capabilities and position in this joint air force demonstration flight,” the South Korean Defense Ministry said.
South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong Sub said on Sunday that his country will “strengthen the ability to more effectively implement the US extended deterrence and greatly enhance the response capabilities of … the military to deter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.”
North Korea’s “repeated missile provocations” have been on the rise “both qualitatively and quantitatively,” Li said, adding that this and preparations for nuclear tests constitute “a serious problem that threatens peace and stability.”
Despite continued provocations from Pyongyang, Blinken confirmed on Monday that the US remains “committed to a diplomatic approach,” ready to engage with North Korea without preconditions, and “has no hostile intent” towards the nation.
“But our efforts to engage without preconditions have so far not met with a response from North Korea,” he said. “In fact, the only response we’ve seen so far has been multiple missile tests.”
CNN’s Simone McCarthy, Heather Chen, Brad Landon, Yunjung Seo, Ellie Kaufman, and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.