N.Korea’s Kim oversees military meeting amid potential nuclear test

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a convocation of the Expansion of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea in this photo released by the country’s Korean Central News Agency on June 22, 2022.

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un continued to preside over the second day of the nation’s major party meeting on its military and defense policies on Wednesday, the state media reported on Thursday, amid concerns over a potential imminent nuclear test.

At the meeting, the party discussed adding operation duties of the frontline units, modifying operation plans and restructuring key military organizational formations, Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said, adding Kim stressed the importance of efforts to enhance the operational capabilities of the frontline units.

The meeting is being closely watched as it could provide clues on the timing of a nuclear test, which the North is seen to have been preparing for weeks. South Korean officials have said the test can come “at any time” and that the timing would be decided by Kim.

But an official at South Korea’s presidential office on Wednesday said he thought North Korea could be delaying what would be its seventh nuclear test in consideration of China’s political calendar and the nation’s COVID-19 situation.

Kim Jong Un on Tuesday presided over the military meeting, which KCNA reported would discuss major tasks to further enhance the function and role of the military commissions at all levels as well as the military policy line and key defense policies of the party.

Last year, Kim laid out military development plans that included smaller nuclear bombs, hypersonic missiles, spy satellites, and drones.

In April, he called on the country’s military to “bolster up their strength in every way to annihilate the enemy,” and has tested an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles this year, including massive intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), new hypersonic missiles, and a short-range missile potentially designed for tactical nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, North Korea has recently reported an outbreak of an unidentified intestinal epidemic in its faming region, which has been adding further strain on the isolated economy, already battling chronic food shortages and a wave of COVID-19 infections.