Monday, April 9, 2012

S. Korean Government Says North Preparing for Third Nuclear Test

Via Washington Post -

As North Korea prepares for a long-range rocket launch within the next week, the South Korean government has released fresh evidence that, it says, suggests a nuclear test soon could follow.

Seoul’s Ministry of Unification, in charge of policy toward Pyongyang, on Sunday sent a report to journalists detailing activity at a test site in North Korea’s northeast, the location for previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. The report, citing recent commercial satellite images, said that the North is “on its way to another grave provocation” by gathering dirt at the entrance to a tunnel.

According to the analysis, that dirt would be used to plug the tunnel before conducting an underground test, which would be the North’s third.

“The effort is believed to be in its final stages,” said the report, which was drafted by Seoul’s intelligence agency. “The soil around the tunnel’s entrance appeared to have been brought in from another region and has been growing in amount since March.”

If North Korea conducts a nuclear test soon after launching its rocket, it would match the pattern set by the reclusive country in 2006 and 2009, in which launches brought international condemnation. In both cases, Pyongyang, outraged by the outrage, tested nuclear devices soon after.

But predictions about a third nuclear test have run rampant in the past two years, and progressive media in Seoul suggested that the latest release was an attempt by the ruling conservative party to gain voter support in advance of Wednesday’s parliamentary elections.

The announcement might be a “red herring election move by conservatives,” the liberal Hankyoreh newspaper said in a headline on its Web site.

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