(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks from the department spokesperson, more information in paras 4, 7-11; ADDS photo)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, May 6 (Yonhap) -- North Korea may be preparing to stage a nuclear test as early as this month, a state department spokesperson said Friday.
Jalina Porter said the U.S. has also shared the information with allies and partners.
"The United States assesses that the DPRK is preparing its Punggye-ri test site and could be ready to conduct a test there as early as this month, which would be its seventh test," the principal deputy spokesperson said in a telephonic press briefing.
DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
Earlier reports have said the North appeared to be repairing underground tunnels at Punggye-ri that were purportedly dismantled in 2018 as a sign of its willingness to denuclearize.
Punggye-ri has been the site of all six nuclear tests conducted by North Korea to date. The last test was held in September 2017.
Porter said the assessment is "consistent" with what Pyongyang has said in recent public statements.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said the country will continue to advance its nuclear capabilities and also use them to preemptively mitigate aggression against the country if necessary.
"We have shared this information with allies and partners and will continue closely coordinating with them as well," said Porter.
"We will also build on this close coordination when the president travels to the Republic of Korea and Japan later this month to strengthen our alliances and demonstrate that our commitment to their security is ironclad," she added, referring to South Korea by its official name.
President Joe Biden is set to visit Seoul and Tokyo from May 20-24, his first trip to Asia since taking office in January last year.
Talk of 'normalizing' GSOMIA raises hope, skepticism around Seoul-Tokyo ties
S. Korea, U.S., Japan close ranks amid growing N.K. threats
Yoon's agenda gets boost from ruling party's sweeping triumph in local elections
Yoon-Biden summit opens new, broader chapter for S. Korea-U.S. alliance
Yoon, Biden agree to broaden, deepen alliance amid N.K. threats, China's assertiveness