The United States is anticipating more provocations from North Korea, including a fifth nuclear test, possibly in early May when the isolated regime is convening its Workers' Party Congress.
"I think we can anticipate that there will be more to come," Deputy Secretary of the State Anthony Blinken told lawmakers Wednesday in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. "It's certainly possible in the event of North Korea's Party Workers' Congress, which is to take place on May 6, that the regime will do something else, another missile test, maybe even another nuclear test."
North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Un, is expected to use the 7th Workers' Party Congress — the first in nearly four decades — to strengthen his hold on power and affirm claims of recent progress in Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.
Earlier, South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, warned that North Korea is gearing up for a fifth nuclear test. Pyongyang conducted its fourth test in January, which was followed by a new and stronger set of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council in March.
Blinken said the U.S. "will be compelled to take steps to further defend" itself and the allies if Beijing does not join Washington in exerting influence and leverage over North Korea to stop pursuing nuclear weapons. Ninety percent of North Korean trade flows through China.
"While these steps would not be directed to China, they might well be things that China does not like," Blinken said, referring to the deployment of a missile defense system in the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S. and South Korea have yet to conclude formal consultations on the so-called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, or THAAD, which China strongly opposes.