North Korea Could be Planning New Nuke Test, Experts Say

Observers see signs that North Korea could be planning to conduct another nuclear test, the Associated Press reported (seeĀ GSN, April 20).

Statements made by experts and a North Korean defector today followed a report by a South Korean broadcaster that Pyongyang was preparing for its third test blast.

The defector, who was a senior member of the state’s official Workers’ Party Central Committee, pointed to a statement released today by Pyongyang that he said indicates that the aspiring-nuclear power is preparing for a third nuclear test.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency issued the statement asserting that Pyongyang would not produce more nuclear weapons than it needs.

“It will manufacture nukes as much as it deems necessary but will neither participate in [a] nuclear arms race nor produce them more than it feels necessary,” the statement said. “It will join the international nuclear disarmament efforts with an equal stand with other nuclear weapons states.”

The language suggests that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il intends to demonstrate his authority in the face of opposition from the United States, according to the defector.

An anonymous North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman also vowed this month that the Stalinist state would “increase and modernize various type nuclear weapons as deterrent” in the coming days.

North Korea is thought to possess a sufficient amount of fissile material to build a minimum of six nuclear bombs. The country carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

South Korea-based academic Yoon Deok-min said Pyongyang had its own time line for nuclear-weapon development work and could carry out a test whenever it wanted.

Carrying out another test, however, would leave the nation with a smaller amount of fissile material and could earn it even harsher international sanctions that might jeopardize the North Korean government’s grip on power, said Seoul academic Koh Yu-hwan. He said he did not believe Pyongyang would conduct a new test (Kwang-Tae Kim, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, April 21).

The United States yesterday joined South Korea is expressing doubts about a possible North Korean nuclear test, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We’re skeptical of that report,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “It’s an area we keep watching intensively” (Agence France-Presse/Spacewar.com, April 20).