SEOUL • Senior South Korean and United States defence officials met in Seoul yesterday for talks focused on responding to the possibility of an imminent North Korean rocket launch and nuclear test.
The two-day talks follow statements earlier this month by the respective heads of the North's space and atomic energy agencies that fuelled concerns over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
There has been widespread speculation that Pyongyang may carry out a satellite rocket launch to mark the 70th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party on Oct 10. Although there have been no physical signs of North Korea preparing a launch, the director of its space agency said the world would soon see "a series of satellites... soaring into the sky".
A day later, the head of the national atomic agency said North Korea's main nuclear weapons complex was fully operational - including a uranium enrichment plant and a reactor seen as the country's main source of weapons- grade plutonium.
Opening yesterday's talks, Deputy Minister for Policy at the Defence Ministry, Mr Yoo Jeh Seung, said the meeting would seek to "firm up the combined defence posture" of South Korea and the US.
The White House has already warned Pyongyang to refrain from any "irresponsible provocation" that might aggravate tensions. The US officials at the talks include Mr Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, and Ms Elaine Bunn, deputy assistant secretary of defence for nuclear and missile defence policy.
The chief US envoy to the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programme arrived in South Korea on Tuesday and was expected to join the discussions.