North Korea could soon test new solid-fuel ICBM: Spy agency

North Korea could hold large-scale military drills in March or April and may test a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), South Korea’s intelligence agency has told the country’s legislators, according to local media reports.

News of North Korea’s possible military exercises comes as the chief of the United Nations nuclear watchdog – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – said that there were “deeply troubling” signs of activity detected at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear testing site.

“The Nuclear Test Site at Punggye-ri remains prepared to support a nuclear test, and we continue to see indications of activity near Adit 3 of the Test Site,” IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said in a statement to his organisation’s board of governors released on Tuesday.

“The reopening of the nuclear test site is deeply troubling,” he said.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) briefed members of their country’s legislature on Tuesday regarding possible large-scale military exercises by North Korea as well as reports of food shortages, and the recent public appearances of the daughter of the country’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Citing a report that North Korea was facing an annual rice shortfall of 800,000 tonnes, the NIS said that the food shortages in North Korea were not so severe that they could be considered a threat to the regime. The spy agency blamed the north’s food shortage on distribution problems and the effects of COVID-19.

Last week, Kim urged officials in North Korea to meet agricultural production targets as reports emerged of a “grave” food situation in the country.

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