News / Asia

South Korea: North Believed to be Preparing for 4th Nuclear Test

FILE - Satellite image provided by GeoEye shows the area around the Yongbyon nuclear facility in Yongbyon, North Korea.
FILE - Satellite image provided by GeoEye shows the area around the Yongbyon nuclear facility in Yongbyon, North Korea.
Speculation is growing that North Korea is planning to conduct an underground nuclear test to coincide with President Obama’s visit to the peninsula this week.
 
South Korea’s foreign minister is warning the North not to carry out a fourth nuclear test. Speaking at an international forum in Seoul, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se remarked: “If North Korea goes ahead with another nuclear test as it has publicly warned, it will be a game changer.”
 
Daniel Pinkston, the Northeast Asia deputy project director for the International Crisis Group, said Pyongyang is unlikely to worry about the South’s reaction.
 
“They’ve demonstrated a long dedication, persistence and resolve to dedicate a lot of resources over a long period of time. They’ve been able to bear the international pressure and sanctions and everything else. So I think it’s a clear indication that the nuclear program is very important to the leadership and so I don’t expect them to stop or reverse course,” said Pinkston.
 
Officials in Seoul said they are preparing for the North to conduct its fourth nuclear test or some other provocation to coincide with President Barack Obama’s two-day visit to South Korea, which begins Friday.
 
That day will also mark the anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s army.  But some analysts, like Pinkston, expect that because military leaders will be celebrating with banquets and other events, the test would likely occur on another day.
 
South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense says it is on an around-the-clock alert after detecting activity at the southern tunnel of the Punggye-ri testing site in North Korea.
 
Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry, said intelligence matters make it difficult to reveal precisely the activities detected at Punggye-ri, but numerous activities there lead analysts to believe the North could conduct a nuclear test within a short period of time.
 
Kim added that there is a possibility the North is trying to merely act like it is making preparations, as it has done in the past. To determine whether it is deception or real, Kim said, South Korea and the United States are sharing information about what they are detecting.
 
North Korea’s previous underground explosions were carried out in 2006, 2009 and last year, in defiance of warnings from the international community. All took place at Punggye-ri in a remote eastern part of the country.
 
South Korea’s defense ministry spokesman said the military top brass are thoroughly prepared for a fourth one to occur at any time.
 
Kim said the ministry and Joint Chiefs of Staff established on Monday a crisis management task force in order to strengthen the military readiness posture in anticipation of a North Korean nuclear test.
 
Pyongyang threatened last month to carry out a new type of nuclear test. It gave no details.
 
In 2010, North Korea unveiled a uranium enrichment program that would give it a steady fuel supply for a nuclear arsenal. After the 2013 test, analysts said they were unable to determine if the North had used highly enriched uranium as the fuel. The first two tests were believed to have been fueled by the country’s small plutonium stockpile.

Steve Herman

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

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: meanbill from: USA
April 22, 2014 1:20 PM
For "defensive" reasons, North Korea needs nuclear weapons..
North Korea doesn't possess the military capabilities to launch an "offensive" assault.. -- (Possess a big stick, to ward off the mad dogs?)..

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs