The Korea Herald


NK ready to conduct nuclear test: military

By Yeo Jun-suk

Published : March 24, 2017 - 18:08

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North Korea appears to have completed preparation for another nuclear test and is ready to carry it out, South Korea’s military said Friday, as the United Nations adopted a statement condemning Pyongyang’s latest military provocations.

“Our assessment is that North Korea is ready to conduct a nuclear test if they get the go ahead from Kim Jong-un,” said an official from Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff in a meeting with reporters. “We believe they have been preparing for a long period of time.”

Fox News and AFP reported Thursday that the North would conduct a sixth nuclear test within the coming days, citing US officials with knowledge of the matter. The officials said they have seen evidence of imminent nuclear tests, such as the digging of new tunnels around the Punggye-ri test site. 

North Korea test-fires a ballistic missile in this undated file photo. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (KCNA-Yonhap) North Korea test-fires a ballistic missile in this undated file photo. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (KCNA-Yonhap)

Although Pyongyang is ready to conduct the nuclear test “at any time,” Seoul’s military has yet to find indications that the North emplaced nuclear devices and monitoring equipment at the Punggye-ri test site, where the North conducted all of its five nuclear tests during the past decade, the JCS official added.

The military assessment coincided with unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council’s press statement against the North, which denounced the regime for conducting a failed missile test Wednesday and a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine last Sunday.

“The members of the council expressed serious concern over the DPRK’s increasingly destabilizing behavior and flagrant and provocative defiance of the Security Council,” the UN said in a press statement, referring to North Korea’s official name.

South Korea and the US held an after-action review of Key Resolve on Friday, bringing an end to the computer-based command post military drill. The allies applied the OPLAN 5015, which focuses on staging a pre-emptive strike against the North’s weapons of mass destruction, such as nukes and missiles.

During the two-week military drills, the allies’ forces reportedly employed an operational guideline to use an US advanced missile shield, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. It was said to be used for intercepting incoming ballistic missiles during the initial phase of a war.

Separately, the allies will stage massive logistics drills near Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, between April 10 and 21 as a part of field-training Foal Eagle exercise, said an official from the US-led Combined Forces Command in Seoul.

“The exercise is aimed to improve (and) integrate the allies’ logistics capability in various domains such as air, ground, sea, space and cyberspace,” said the official. “The exercise will involve 2,500 US soldiers and 1,200 from South Korea.”

Scheduled to continue until the end of next month, the Foal Eagle exercise is expected to be the largest-ever in scale, with the participation of top-notch US strategic assets including a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, stealth fighters and a nuclear bomber.

By Yeo Jun-suk (