North Korea ready to conduct another nuclear test at any time, says South Korea's Defence Ministry

People watch a television news report showing file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul on Sept 9, 2016.
People watch a television news report showing file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul on Sept 9, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea is ready to conduct another nuclear test at any time, South Korea's Defence Ministry said on Monday (Sept 12), just days after Pyongyang sparked worldwide condemnation with its fifth and most powerful test.

"An additional test could be conducted in a tunnel that branches off from the second tunnel or in the third tunnel, where preparations have been completed," ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun told reporters.

The spokesman declined to elaborate, citing intelligence matters, but said the South's military is on full combat-readiness to respond to "further nuclear tests, ballistic missile launches or land provocation" by the North.

Citing an unidentified government official, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported earlier on Monday that Pyongyang had completed preparations for another nuclear test in its previously unused third tunnel at the Punggye-ri site in the north-east.

 
 
 

The North conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006 in the first tunnel and the last four tests in the second tunnel, according to Seoul's Defence Ministry.

In a statement hailing the "success" of its test last Friday, the North vowed to take "further measures" to increase its nuclear strike force "in quality and in quantity".

The yield from last Friday's test was estimated at 10 kilotons, almost twice as much as the one Pyongyang conducted only eight months ago.

The North also boasted that the test was of a nuclear warhead that could be mounted on a missile.

The United Nations Security Council agreed last Friday to start work on new measures - even though five sets of UN sanctions since the first nuclear test in 2006 have failed to halt the North's nuclear drive.

Mr Sung Kim, the US State Department's special representative for North Korea policy, said on Sunday during a visit to Japan that Washington and Tokyo would work closely "to come up with the strongest possible measure against North Korea's latest action".

He also suggested that the US may launch its own sanctions.

The envoy will arrive in Seoul later on Monday and hold talks with his South Korean counterpart Kim Hong Kyun on Tuesday morning.