North Korea said for the second time it is not planning a nuclear test “at present,” releasing the denial on the day a US envoy arrived in South Korea to discuss tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea “seeks to rattle the nerves of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] in a bid to cause it to conduct a nuclear test, though such a thing is not under plan at present,” an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement carried on Saturday by the official Korean Central News Agency.
South Korea has no comment to make on Saturday’s KCNA statement, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk, said yesterday.
North Korea must “show its sincerity through dialogue and positive actions, not provocations,” he said.
The US, South Korea and Japan have expressed concern that North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un may conduct a nuclear test to reassert himself after he lost a US food aid deal for its unsuccessful firing of a long-range rocket on April 13. Robert King, the US special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, who negotiated the food aid deal, arrived in Seoul on Saturday to meet South Korean security officials.
North Korea first denied planning an atomic weapon test on May 23, though satellite photos have since indicated preparation activities at sites for both a rocket launch and a nuclear test.
While the US State Department welcomes the North Korean statement as a sign of understanding, it is not considering resuming food aid, Darragh Paradiso, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in a written statement.
“We want to assist the North Korean people, including by providing nutritional assistance, but we cannot do so when we no longer have confidence that the DPRK will follow through on its implementation commitments to ensure that nutritional assistance reaches those in need,” Paradiso said.
The February agreement would have provided 240,000 tonnes of food to the impoverished nation suffering from its worst drought in decades, in exchange for the suspension of missile and nuclear tests.
An April 9 South Korean intelligence report cited satellite photographs of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site near North Korea’s border with Russia and China, showing excavation consistent with preparations for an underground atomic device detonation.
Construction began last summer and is in its early stages for a new launch pad for firing larger rockets at the Musudan-ri base in the country’s northeast, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington said on its Web site, citing satellite images taken on April 29.
The Web site of South Korean newspaper Joongang Ilbo was hacked on Saturday and police are not excluding the possibility of North Korean involvement, the South Korean publication reported yesterday. Last week, North Korea’s military threatened to attack with “strategic rockets” seven South Korean media outlets, including Joongang, for their “vicious smear campaign” against Kim Jong-un.
Kim’s regime often issues threats of war, including the April 26 message that an elite force will turn the government of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to “ashes.”
North Korea’s latest statement may be aimed at influencing South Korea’s presidential election in December, said Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.