South Korea Accuses Pyongyang of Planning Nuclear Weapons Test

The Independent (London, England), April 1, 2012 | Go to article overview
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South Korea Accuses Pyongyang of Planning Nuclear Weapons Test


New allegations coincide with rocket launch to mark North Korean founder's centenary

South Korea has accused its northern neighbour of planning another nuclear weapons test, even as it prepares for the launch of a long-range rocket that has itself sparked condemnation.

Last month, North Korea announced that it was preparing to launch a rocket that would carry a satellite into space. The launch will coincide with celebrations beginning on Thursday of the 100th birthday of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung.

South Korea, Japan and the US have condemned the launch, accusing Pyongyang of using it as cover for the testing of long-range missiles that would breach a UN resolution. Now, the authorities in Seoul say they believe the North is preparing for what would be its third nuclear test. A report from the country's intelligence agencies accused the North of "covertly preparing [for the launch] which would be another grave provocation".

"North Korea is digging up a new underground tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, in addition to its existing two underground tunnels, and it has been confirmed that the excavation works are in the final stages," the report said, according to a copy seen by the Associated Press.

Satellite images apparently show digging at Kilju county in the north-east, the site of the two previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

The report said soil is needed to fill up underground tunnels before a nuclear test and indicated a "high possibility" North Korea was preparing for such a move.

North Korea has yet to respond to the latest claims and there has been no independent evidence to support the allegation from South Korea. Last month, the North said the launch of a rocket due to take place between 12 and 16 April to mark the centenary of Kim Il- sung's birth would help the "building of a thriving nation".

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