North Korea could be preparing to conduct a fourth nuclear test, according to officials in neighboring South Korea.
After spotting an increase in activity at the North’s main nuclear test site, South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae warned a fourth nuclear test by the isolated state may be imminent.
North Korea last conducted a test on February 12, and South Korean officials have said the movement currently being observed in the North is similar to the maneuvers now being seen.
Newspaper JoongAng Ilbo spoke to an anonymous South Korean official who said intelligence services in Seoul have detected “increased activity of labor forces and vehicles” at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the north-east of North Korea. The source said:
“We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation, which is very similar to the situation ahead of the third nuclear test. We are trying to figure out whether it is a genuine preparation for a nuclear test or just a ploy to heap more pressure on us and the US.”
In recent weeks, North Korea has let loose a stream of belligerent rhetoric, warning that it plans to attack US and South Korean targets with nuclear weapons.
In a bid to back up its tough stance, the North has prevented South Koreans from working at a jointly run industrial complex in the North and shut down an emergency military hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang.
The North has suggested it will conduct a missile launch of some description on April 10. While many have assumed this refers to an attack on the US or South Korea, a fourth nuclear test now looks the more likely candidate.
There’s a chance the North may also wait until April 15, the birthday of the late leader Kim Il-Sung. The day is the most important in the North Korean calendar and has often been used in the past by the regime to make dramatic statements or gestures.
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