SEOUL, Jan. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Monday North Korea is ready for a nuclear test "anytime" for political purposes, urging his military to stay vigilant against threats from the communist state.
Army Gen. Jung Seung-jo made the remark during his visit to front-line units in the wake of a series of daily threats from the isolated state, which is believed to be preparing a third nuclear test in the nation's far northeast.
"North Korea's nuclear program development poses a direct threat to our people. In addition, it could launch various provocations to cause fatal damage or casualties on our side," JSC Chairman Jung said during his visit to Marine Corps and Army artillery units north of Seoul. "Lately, North Korea has increased live-fire drills by three times compared to the past."
The latest move comes as the Kim Jong-un regime is preparing its third nuclear test in response to United Nations sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for a long-range rocket launch in December. Coupled with a series of hostile rhetoric, concerns over an imminent nuclear test have escalated on the Korean Peninsula.
"South Korea and U.S. forces are closely monitoring North Korea's nuclear test preparations and have exchanged information between the two sides," Jung told the Yonhap News reporter who accompanied the inspection team.
Later in the day, Jung and Gen. James Thurman, the chief of the U.S. Forces Korea, shared information over the phone on the latest situations in the North and agreed to step up cooperation between their armed forces in the nation, according to military officials.
About 28,500 American soldiers are stationed in South Korea as a deterrence against North Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice.