North Korea could be set tonight to launch their latest nuclear missile test, an expert has claimed. An official at a Washington-based think tank declared a fresh test could be conducted just hours from now after citing sources inside the South Korean government.
It comes as Chinese president Xi Jinping pleaded with Donald Trump and North Korea to show restraint and "meet each other halfway" as the nuclear crisis deepens.
Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at The Center for the National Interest, tweeted earlier on Monday: "Sources in South Korean government are telling me chances are 50% or more that North Korea test nuke or missile tonight EST."
He later fuelled speculation further by suggesting a nuclear test tonight "feels very likely". Meanwhile, President Xi's comments came as a US armada steams towards towards North Korea. But Kim Jong-un's regime has retaliated to the move, by threatening to sink Donald Trump's ships. South Korea - the North's arch enemy - is also in talks with America about holding joint military drills alongside US ships as tension in the region grows.
But the Chinese president has issued a plea for calm, urging all sides to show restraint.
He Hongmei, a presenter on Chinese state news agency CCTV, said: "Xi Jinping stresses that China resolutely opposes violations of the United Nation Security Council's resolution and hopes all sides will exercise restraint and avoid doing anything to worsen the tense situation on the (Korean) peninsula.
"Only if all sides take responsibility for their actions and meet each other half way can the nuclear issue on the peninsula be resolved as soon as possible and realise the de-nuclearisation on the peninsula.
"We are willing to work with all sides, including the US, to make joint efforts for peace on the peninsula, peace in south-east Asia and peace in the world." The Chinese president also stressed this point in a phone call with Mr Trump, in which he urged restraint on both sides, according to Chinese state media. Mr Trump previously threatened to "solve" the North Korea problem "with or without" China.
The US president has also held talks with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe about the situation in North Korea. "I highly appreciated President Trump's stance to show in words and action that all options are on the table regarding North Korea," the Japanese Prime Minister said. The US armada is reportedly just days away from reaching the Korean peninsula. Pyongyang says it is ready to sink the USS Carl Vinson, America's aircraft carrier.
Japan announced plans to send two of its own destroyers to join the American fleet for military drills - and South Korea said it may also do the same. As America and its allies keep a wary eye on North Korea's next move, there are fears that some sort of weapons test could come as early as Tuesday when Pyongyang celebrates 85 years of the North Korean army.