South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, warns that North Korea is getting ready for another nuclear test. The Washington Post:
“Recently, signs of preparations for a fifth nuclear test have been detected,” Park said during a meeting with her aides Monday. “We are in a situation in which we cannot predict what provocations North Korea might conduct to break away from isolation and to consolidate the regime.”
This came after the South Korean Defense Ministry said that North Korea’s next underground nuclear test may be of a miniaturized warhead, rather than of the standard atomic devices it is thought to have detonated previously.
“Given the latest developments, North Korea could carry out an underground nuclear warhead test, and we are keeping close tabs on it,” Moon Sang-gyun, a Defense Ministry spokesman, told reporters in Seoul on Monday.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported last month that Kim ordered “a nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several kinds of ballistic rockets able to carry nuclear warheads” to be carried out “in a short time.”
Responding to reports that North Korea might also be planning another ballistic missile test, Army General Vincent Brooks told a Senate committee, “They are struggling with getting the program up and operational.” Nevertheless, he counseled against complacency: “We are going to see them acquire these capabilities if they are not stopped,” he said.
Elsewhere, South Korea’s foreign ministry emphasized to China that installing the THAAD missile defense system Seoul has long been playing footsie over with the United States is a “live-or-die” proposition for the Koreans. Beijing is the elephant in the room whenever North Korea comes up, and South Korea clearly doesn’t think China is taking its fears seriously enough. If Pyongyang conducts more tests, look for South Korea to feel even more alienated from Beijing and even more friendly towards the U.S. and Japan.