North Korea has told China, its key ally, that it is ready to prepare one or two more nuclear tests this year as a way of pushing the United States into diplomatic talks, according to a Reuters source. The news comes after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test Tuesday. The tests, one of which could be accompanied by another rocket launch “could be conducted soon,” according to the source, who says the fourth test would be larger than the third. Pyongyang has vowed to carry out the tests unless Washington agrees to talks.
Just because there have been no official talks between Washington and Pyongyang doesn’t mean there haven’t been secret discussions. A report in Japan’s Asahi Shimbum claims senior U.S. officials held secret talks in North Korea on at least three occasions in 2011 and 2012. Officials, believed to have included Sydney Seiler, director for Korea at the U.S. National Security Council, discussed the leadership transition following the death of Kim Jong Il in December 2011. The Japanese paper says the United States kept Japan in the dark about the meetings but unofficially confirmed one of them had taken place.