Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada warned Thursday that North Korea may have already completed preparations for its seventh nuclear test, all while conducting a spate of test missile launches that began at the start of this year.

Hamada also said during a parliamentary session that Pyongyang's weapons technology has developed "at a rapid pace," acknowledging it has become "more difficult to intercept" missiles it launches.

He expressed wariness that Pyongyang might conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017 in the not-so-distant future, given the progress of repair work at the nation's only known nuclear test site, in Punggye-ri in the nation's northeast.

North Korea has repeatedly fired missiles, including a recent ballistic projectile that was the first to fly over the Japanese archipelago in five years. Pyongyang is banned from using ballistic technology and carrying out nuclear tests under U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada speaks during a House of Councillors committee session in Tokyo on Oct. 13, 2022. (Kyodo)

The launch last week of the intermediate-range ballistic missile, which Japan's Defense Ministry said traveled about 4,600 kilometers, has fueled fears that North Korea could engage in further military provocations.

Earlier Thursday, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency reported leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the test-firing of two long-range strategic cruise missiles in person the previous day.

Kim was also quoted by KCNA as stressing North Korea should "focus all efforts on the endless and accelerating development" of nuclear weapons.

Hamada said Pyongyang is believed to already possess miniaturized nuclear weapons, while it has also evolved its hypersonic weapon technology and that of missiles that can fly on irregular trajectories.

Despite these developments, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said at the same parliamentary session that U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at thwarting Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions "have been working effectively, given North Korea's severe economic situation."

Hayashi added that Japan will continue working with other countries like the United States and South Korea to ensure the full implementation of the resolutions, which were adopted beginning in 2006 to impose sanctions on Pyongyang.

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