Possible N. Korean nuclear test 'within days'

An undated photo made available by the North Korean Central News Agency on March 7 shows four projectiles during a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army at an undisclosed locati
An undated photo made available by the North Korean Central News Agency on March 7 shows four projectiles during a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army at an undisclosed location.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

UN Security Council hits out at Pyongyang's 'flagrant defiance'

SEOUL • North Korea was reported to be preparing for another nuclear test yesterday even as the UN Security Council "strongly condemned" its recent missile and ballistic missile engine tests, denouncing Pyongyang's "increasingly destabilising behaviour".

North Korea has maintained readiness to conduct a new test at any time, a South Korean military official said, amid a report of a possible test within days as Pyongyang continued to defy international pressure over the issue.

US and South Korean military surveillance assets were closely monitoring the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site on the reclusive state's east coast, said the official, who declined to be identified.

Speaking on the telephone, the official also declined to comment on whether there were fresh signs pointing to an imminent test.

"North Korea is ready to carry out a nuclear test at any time, depending on the leadership's decision. We are keeping a close eye on its nuclear activities," the official said.

South Korea has been aware that the North could move ahead with another test at any time since it conducted its last nuclear test in September.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches, in defiance of United Nations sanctions, and is believed by experts and government officials to be working to develop nuclear-warhead missiles that could reach the United States.

Fox News in the United States reported on Thursday that the North was in the final stages of preparing for another nuclear test, possibly within the next few days. The network cited US officials with knowledge of recent intelligence.

It quoted one of the officials as saying that the test could come as early as the end of the month.

The Washington-based thinktank 38 North said last month that satellite imagery showed the North's nuclear site continued low-level activity in a possible sign that it could conduct another test soon. However, it said it was unclear exactly when such a test might take place.

The South Korean military has said several times since the September test that Pyongyang was ready to conduct another nuclear blast at any time, and that a tunnel was available at the site to do so.

North Korea said last year it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile and has been ratcheting up a threat that its rivals and the United Nations appear powerless to contain.

The Security Council on Thursday "strongly condemned" recent North Korean missile and ballistic missile engine tests, denouncing Pyongyang's "increasingly destabilising behaviour".

"The launch and engine test are in grave violation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's international obligations," the council said in a statement.

"The members of the Security Council expressed serious concern over the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's increasingly destabilising behaviour and flagrant and provocative defiance of the Security Council."

North Korea attempted another missile test on Wednesday that failed, according to US and South Korean officials.

It was the latest in a series of weapons tests that have alarmed the region.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Possible N. Korean nuclear test 'within days''. Print Edition | Subscribe