The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, fears an early North Korean nuclear weapons test. The development is being followed “very, very closely” and is “incredibly worrying,” said Grossi.

The world is “holding its breath” at the possibility of a North Korean nuclear test, according to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi. After meeting with the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday, Grossi said “everyone is holding their breath because another nuclear test is reconfirmation” of a nuclear program that is progressing in an “incredibly worrying” manner.

“So we are following this very, very closely. We hope it doesn’t happen, but unfortunately the signs point in a different direction,” said Grossi. However, the IAEA chief also stated that he did not believe a test was imminent.

Seoul and Washington have repeatedly warned that Pyongyang may be on the verge of testing a nuclear bomb for the first time since 2017, following a spate of missile launches in recent weeks.

Tensions in the region have increased significantly in recent weeks, partly because of a series of North Korean missile tests. A North Korean missile flew over Japan last month, and North Korea later said it undertook “tactical nuclear exercises”.