U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper met with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin in Seoul on Wednesday apparently to discuss North Korea’s escalating nuclear threats.
Clapper was also to meet with senior Seoul officials at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae and the National Intelligence Service, and visit the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command in central Seoul, sources said.
His visit to Seoul came amid rising concerns over Pyongyang’s preparations for what would be a fourth nuclear test, which the international community fears would further enhance the communist state’s military nuclear capability.
“I understand that Mr. Clapper visited Seoul to exchange up-to-date intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear development,” a Seoul official told media, declining to be named.
Seoul officials believe that Pyongyang is technically ready to conduct another underground nuclear test. They say when it carries out the test will hinge on the North’s political calculations.
Last January, the top U.S. intelligence official told a parliamentary session that the North was expanding its facility for uranium enrichment in the Yongbyon nuclear complex and had restarted its plutonium-based nuclear reactors.
Meanwhile, the Rodong Sinmun, the daily of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, said that its “nuclear deterrent,” or nuclear program, was not something to be bargained away. A commentary of the paper also stressed its resolve to continue to conduct nuclear and missile tests, urging the U.S. to abandon what it calls a hostile policy toward it.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)