News / Asia

South Korea Confirms 'Sign' North Korea Making Nuclear Test Preparations

North Korean vehicle carrying a missile passes by during a mass military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, April 15, 2012.North Korean vehicle carrying a missile passes by during a mass military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, April 15, 2012.
x
North Korean vehicle carrying a missile passes by during a mass military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, April 15, 2012.
North Korean vehicle carrying a missile passes by during a mass military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, April 15, 2012.
There are further indications North Korea may be preparing to conduct nuclear and missile tests - actions that would again violate international sanctions against it.

Amid official concerns in Seoul and Washington that North Korea could be poised to launch one or more of its untested medium-range missiles, South Korea's government is also acknowledging Pyongyang may attempt a fourth nuclear test.

On Monday, lawmakers at a South Korean National Assembly committee meeting asked the Unification Minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, about nuclear activity.

Ryoo says there “is such a sign” of preparation activity at the Punggye-ri site but he will not comment further on matters related to intelligence.

At that location, North Korea in February conducted its third nuclear test in seven years.

UN violations

Its nuclear tests, as well any medium or long range ballistic missile launches, violate U.N. sanctions.

North Korea has recently hinted that it has the capability to produce both plutonium and uranium fueled weapons and that it has developed a warhead small enough to fit atop a missile. But most experts doubt it has yet achieved that capability.

Kim Min-seok is a spokesman for South Korea's Ministry of National Defense. He says Kim says the South is responding calmly and closely monitoring the North's activity through various systems and is preparing for possible provocations.

Tokyo could shoot down missile

Japan's defense minister has authorized the country's self defense forces to shoot down any incoming North Korea missile. This is the first time such authorization has been given prior to any announcement from Pyongyang of a planned missile test.

The Defense Ministry in Tokyo also confirms the United States is considering deploying high altitude aerial reconnaissance “Global Hawk” drones to Misawa air base in northern Japan to monitor North Korea.

Officials in Pyongyang last week advised the 24 diplomatic missions there they should consider evacuating their embassies, saying safety could not be guaranteed after April 10th.

US alters plans

Meanwhile, the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, General James Thurman, has canceled a scheduled trip to Washington. He was testify before several Congressional committees this week but the military says based on developments it is prudent for the general to remain on the peninsula.

The U.S. Defense Department has delayed a test launch from California of a Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile. Officials say while the test had no connection to North Korea, it was felt best to postpone it so as to not further exacerbate tension.

North Korea increased its bellicose rhetoric after the U.S. Air Force sent long-range strategic bombers to fly over South Korea during a current joint annual exercise.

Dispute affects workers in border complex

There is also continuing focus on the status of the only joint project between the two Koreas, the industrial complex at Kaesong, just north of the border.

North Korea's news agency says the secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party, Kim Yang Gon, on Monday visited the zone to “size up the situation.”

North Korea since last week has refused to issue permits for South Korean managers and cargo trucks to enter.

At least 13 the 123 small factories making households goods at Kaesong have ceased operations. About 500 South Korean managers still remain on site but are continuing to trickle back home and dozens more firms are likely to halt production this week due to dwindling supplies.

South Korean government officials and analysts are expressing concern that should operations be fully suspended, it would significantly escalate already high tension on the peninsula.

The complex employs thousands of North Koreans. Their salaries go to their cash-strapped government and are a significant source of hard currency for it.

Pyongyang steps up rhetoric

North Korea has recently taken its threatening rhetoric to an unprecedented level.

After a missile launch and nuclear test in violation of U.N. sanctions Pyongyang has announced an abrogation of the 1953 armistice, threatened the United States and its Pacific bases with preemptive nuclear strikes and declared that a state of war exists between the North and the South.

Top officials of South Korea's government, including the president, have repeatedly warned North Korea through public statements it faces a punishing military response should the South feel that its citizens are endangered.

U.S. military officers in South Korea, speaking to VOA News (on condition they not be identified) in recent days, have expressed concern about an over-reaction or accidental firing by South Korean forces now on high alert.

Agreements between the U.S. and South Korean militaries call for close consultations on any response. General Thurman, as head of the Combined Forces Command, would also lead South Korean forces if full-scale war erupts.

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, on Sunday said he does not believe North Korea is poised to engage in military action but he “can't take the chance that it won't.”
  • North Korean children hold up red scarves to be tied around their necks during an induction ceremony into the Korean Children's Union held at a stadium in Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
  • Two military officers admire displays at a flower show featuring thousands of Kimilsungia flowers, named after the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
  • South Korean soldiers stand guard at an observation post near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul April 11, 2013.
  • Female North Korean soldiers patrol along the banks of Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 11, 2013.
  • A North Korean man blocks his face with his hand from being photographed as he and other residents take a ferry in Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 11, 2013.
  • People take part in an oath-taking before the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on Mansudae Hill in Pyongyang, April 10, 2013. (KCNA)
  • Anti-North Korean protesters release balloons with peace messages on the Grand Unification Bridge leading to the North near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, April 10, 2013.
  • South Koreans arrive with their belongings from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
  • Visitors look at the industrial complex in Kaesong, North Korea, through binoculars at Dora Observation Post in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
  • A South Korean military vehicle passes by gates leading to the North Korean city of Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, April 8, 2013.
  • An elementary school teacher orders her students to leave as they watch South Korean housewives denounce annual South Korean-U.S. military exercises, near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, April 8, 2013.
  • South Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of the Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 8, 2013.
  • North Korean military dogs run to a target with a portrait of South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin during a military drill, April 6, 2013. (KCNA)

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

US, Brazil's Climate-Change Plan: More Renewables, Less Deforestation

Officials say joint initiative on climate change will allow Brazil, United States to strengthen and accelerate cooperation on issues ranging from land use to clean energy More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

After Nearly a Century, Voodoo Opera Rises Again

Opera centers on character named Lolo, a Louisiana plantation worker and Voodoo priestess More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishui
X
Abdulaziz Billow
June 30, 2015 2:16 PM
Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs