As tensions are running high on the Korean Peninsula reports have emerged that North Korea could be gearing up for a fourth underground nuclear weapons test at Punggye-ri, the site of its previous test.
Pyongyang appeared to be making preparations for the test, according to a South Korean government source speaking to the country’s JoongAng Daily newpaper.
“We have detected increased activity of labor forces and vehicles at the southern tunnel of the test site in Punggye-ri, where the regime has worked on maintenance for facilities since its third nuclear test in February”, one of South’s top government officials said. He added that “the activities appear to be similar to those before the third test, so we are closely monitoring the site.”
The official went on to say that the South Korean government “were also tipped off that Pyongyang would soon carry out an additional nuclear test…but we are analyzing if it is indeed preparation for an additional test or it is just to pressure Seoul and Washington.”
The news comes on the heels of the report by a top South Korean security official that their northern neighbor could be gearing up for a test-launch this week – just a day after the United States had earlier delayed its own unrelated missile launch for fear of provoking Pyongyang.
Chief national security advisor to South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said it is not yet clear if the launch would come before or after Wednesday, April 10, which is the date by which North Korea recommends any foreign diplomats leave its territory.
Foreign governments have already made clear, however, that they do not plan to withdraw staff from North Korea just yet. The German foreign minister has struck out at any suggestion that Pyongyang could not guarantee in future the safety of foreign personnel on its territory: "any deadline after which North Korea would no longer ensure the security of embassies is unacceptable", the German foreign ministry said.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague was among those who saw no current need for withdrawal of his country’s officials from North Korea.
There is, however, speculation of a possible provocation by the North, following an alleged loading of mid-range missiles onto mobile launchers and storing them away from prying eyes in facilities on the east coast. National Security Adviser Kim Jan-Soo said “there are no signs of a full-scale war as of now, but the North will have to prepare for retaliation in case of any local war.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Sunday that it is unacceptable for any country to be stoking up tensions that could put an entire world region at risk. While it is North Korea’s major ally, it has been getting more assertive with statements on the international scene. The Chinese foreign ministry has also said in a statement to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that it will not tolerate any “trouble-making on its doorstep.”
On the same day, Japan’s Jiji news agency reported that the country’s defense ministry might give the order to blast any missile that is heading in their direction out of the sky.
Many fear that these recent developments could lead to a misunderstanding that could evolve into full-scale war. This has led to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel postponing the ‘Minuteman 3’ missile test, due to fears that such actions “might be misconstrued by some as suggesting that we were intending to exacerbate the current crisis with North Korea.”
Similarly, Seoul and Washington have decided to put their next big US meeting on hold, reportedly in case Pyongyang chooses to escalate with a missile launch in the coming days, with the Seoul’s chief away.
In an effort to cool the tensions, US Secretary of State John Kerry will include Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo in his trip next week, in the hopes that diplomacy will give Pyongyang a chance to exit the crisis in a dignified manner.
The North has presently mobilized its Musudan missiles, believed to reach distances of 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles), which could in theory be tweaked to fly 4,000km. That means Japan, South Korea and the US military bases in Guam could be potential targets.
more here: http://rt.com/news/korea-fourth-nuclear-test-473/