U.S. Pledges “Strong Response” in Event of Another N. Korean Nuclear Test

TOKYO (Reuters) -
Korean People's Army (KPA) artillery troops conduct a live firing exercise in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 12, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
N. Korean People’s Army artillery troops conduct a live firing exercise in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency last Tuesday. (Reuters/KCNA)

The United States will respond strongly in the case of a further North Korean nuclear test, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, days after the North’s failure to launch what the United States believes was an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

North Korea conducted a fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch the next month, both in contravention of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Expanded U.N. sanctions aimed at starving North Korea of funds for its nuclear weapons program were approved in a unanimous Security Council vote in early March on a resolution drafted by the United States and China.

Blinken, who is meeting senior Japanese government officials in Tokyo, told reporters that North Korea would be digging itself deeper into a hole if it pursued further provocations.

“There will be additional strong response in case of another (North Korean) nuclear test,” Blinken said, adding that such actions by North Korea were “unacceptable.”

Blinken said the United States would consider “a number of possibilities” while adding that it was “premature” to be specific.

Some experts expect North Korea to conduct its fifth nuclear test in the near future, possibly before its party congress in early May, following the embarrassing missile failure on Friday.