North Korea is showing signs of resuming work for a third nuclear test two weeks after it threatened to conduct one in response to strengthened UN sanctions.
Activities monitored at the Punggye-ri nuclear site, about 370km northeast of Pyongyang, show the totalitarian state is in the “final stages of preparation for a nuclear test,” Yonhap news agency reported, citing a government official in South Korea.
The nation conducted atomic tests in 2006 and 2009 at the facility, and the entrance to one of its tunnels was covered, according to an earlier Yonhap report citing unidentified persons in intelligence.
The signs of a possible test come as the international community increases pressure on North Korea to deter the nation from conducting another nuclear experiment. The UN last month strengthened sanctions against the country, and the US and South Korea will hold a naval exercise this week off the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap reported.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made “important concluding remarks” as a guideline to bolster the nation’s army and protect its sovereignty at a high-level Workers’ Party of Korea meeting, a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said yesterday.
Another statement from KCNA yesterday said North Korea will carry out “merciless retaliation” against those opposed to the regime, repeating language used on Saturday, when the foreign ministry accused the US of double standards. The US would face the “toughest retaliation” for criticizing North Korea’s rocket launch while supporting one by South Korea, the foreign ministry said in a statement carried by KCNA.
South Korea should prepare well for a nuclear test, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday at an unscheduled risk management meeting, Yonhap reported, citing a presidential spokesperson. South Korea’s nuclear negotiator, Lim Sung-nam went to China yesterday to discuss the latest developments in the North, the South Korean foreign ministry said in an e-mailed statement.
The UN Security Council on Jan. 22 tightened sanctions against North Korea after the nation launched a rocket in December last year. North Korea threatened to conduct a nuclear test “of higher level” in response, according to a statement carried by KCNA on Jan. 24.
The US and South Korea will hold a naval exercise from today until Wednesday in waters east of the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap reported on Saturday. South Korea on Jan. 30 launched a rocket that put the nation’s first satellite into orbit.