South Korean military officials have observed activities at the North's suspected nuclear testing site that may be preparations for a second test explosion, news reports said yesterday.
Seoul is keeping a close watch on the movements of trucks and soldiers at the Punggye-ri site in the country's remote northeast, Yonhap news agency reported, citing several unidentified military officials.
"It is clear there are movements at Punggye-ri after the [previous] nuclear test," one military official was quoted as saying. "We are closely monitoring to see if these are preparations for a second nuclear test."
Another official confirmed activities at the site, but said another test "is not believed to be imminent," according to Yonhap.
It was not immediately clear how the military officials first spotted the activity at the site. However, the US and South Korea generally share intelligence information from satellite images.
Meanwhile, more unidentified South Korean government officials said they are trying to confirm whether a new facility that has been built at the site could be part of preparations for a second nuclear test, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported yesterday.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said it could not confirm the reports, and the US State Department refused to comment. A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Major David Smith, said, "We don't discuss intelligence issues as a matter of policy."
Alleged suspicious activity has been reported at the North Korean test site several times since the first blast. South Korean officials have said they have no intelligence information suggesting that another test is imminent.
The news came a day after the incoming UN secretary-general, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, met with Chinese leaders to discuss sanctions against the North over its Oct. 9 nuclear test.
Ban met on Friday with China's President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇) and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星). South Korea's Foreign Ministry said they would discuss sanctions, but details of their talks were not immediately released.
Ban is visiting the five permanent UN Security Council members following his election as secretary-general this month. He pledged to make resolving the North Korea nuclear issue a key priority.
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