North Korea could use talks with Joe Biden's administration to advance Kim Jong-un's nuclear weapons programme, according to a US intelligence officer for the hermit state.

Pyongyang is under international sanctions for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

The US is looking for ways to increase pressure on North Korea to bring it back to the negotiating table.

But North Korea sees diplomacy as a tool to boost development of its nuclear weapons.

Sydney Seiler, the US national intelligence officer for
North Korea, warned Washington should not be surprised if there's a missile launch by Sunday.

He told the Center for Strategic and International
Studies think tank: "Every engagement in diplomacy has been designed to further the nuclear programme, not to find a way out.

North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14, being launched at an undisclosed place in North Korea
North Korea's ICBM, Hwasong-14, was launched at an undisclosed place in North Korea in July 2017

"I just urge people not to let the tactical ambiguity obstruct the strategic clarity about North Korea that we have.

"So we should not be overly encouraged if suddenly Kim Jong-un proposes dialogue tomorrow, nor should we be overly surprised, or discouraged, if there's an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) launch by Sunday."

Seiler warned the force North Korea seeks to develop, while part aspirational and part years away, was far more than that needed by a country that simply wanted to be left alone.

An unidentified rocket is displayed during a military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung
An unidentified rocket is displayed during a military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung

He added: "That is where the real risk of inaction comes in."

Biden's administration is understood to be planning a full review of the US approach to North Korea in order to re-start talks over sanctions and potential aid.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated this on Friday, saying North Korea's nuclear weapons were a serious threat to peace and Washington had a vital interest in deterring Pyongyang.

Biden is seeking to decide his approach quickly following his predecessor Donald Trump's unprecedented summits with Kim Jong-un.

It comes weeks after Kim Jong-un was pictured at a military parade in Pyongyang, where large crowds gathered to see the regime unveil a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The parade in itself was not intended to be a provocation but was a worrying sign of Pyongyang's priorities, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.