SEOUL: North Korea could carry out a fourth nuclear test, just days ahead of a visit to Seoul by US President Barack Obama, the South Korean defence ministry said.
“Our military is currently detecting a lot of activity in and around the Punggye-ri nuclear test site,” a foreign news agency quoted the South Korean defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok as saying in a press briefing in Seoul.
The spokesman stressed that North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme was at a stage where it could conduct a test “at any moment” once the order was given by the leadership in Pyongyang.
North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests — in 2006, 2009 and 2013 — all at the Punggye-ri site in the northeast of the country.
“We are thinking of possibilities that the North may stage a surprise nuclear test or just pretend to stage a nuclear test,” Kim said.
The US president is visiting Seoul as part of an Asia tour, and there has been widespread speculation that the North may stage a provocation to coincide with the trip.
Kim said the South Korean and US militaries were closely sharing intelligence and Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff had set up a special task force in case Pyongyang goes ahead with an underground detonation.