Kim Jong Un
The United States, Japan and South Korea warned Wednesday that a North Korean nuclear test would warrant an "unprecedentedly strong response", vowing unity after a blitz of missile launches from the hermit state.
Following talks in Tokyo, the three nations' deputy foreign ministers said they would ramp up their deterrence in the region.
North Korea has passed a law declaring its readiness to launch preventive nuclear strikes, including in the face of conventional attacks, state media said on Sept. 9.
The move effectively eliminates the possibility of denuclearisation talks, with leader Kim Jong Un saying the country's status as a nuclear state was now "irreversible".
Pope Francis has asked Pyongyang to invite him to North Korea, saying in a televised interview on Friday that he would not turn down a chance to visit and work for peace.
A potential papal visit to the isolated, nuclear-armed country was previously floated in 2018 when Seoul's former president Moon Jae-in embarked on a round of diplomacy with Pyongyang's leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korea's Kim Jong Un declared a "shining victory" over Covid-19 as his sister revealed he had fallen ill during the outbreak, which she blamed on Seoul, state media said Thursday.
Addressing a meeting of health workers and scientists, Kim announced a "victory... in the war against the malignant pandemic disease", according to the official Korean Central News Agency.