May 23, 2012 09:25
North Korea on Tuesday claimed it never planned to conduct a nuclear test and its missile tests were purely for scientific research. A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the regime "from the beginning" never envisaged "such a military measure as a nuclear test," and the aim of a failed rocket launch last month was to put a satellite into orbit for peaceful purposes.
The North was responding to a statement on Saturday from the G8 nations condemning the April 13 rocket launch and pledging tougher UN sanctions against the Stalinist country in response to any further provocations or a nuclear test.
North Korea then accused the U.S. of condemning it without good reason by taking issue with the peaceful satellite launch and of ratcheting up tensions by spreading what it called "rumors" of an impending nuclear test.
But an intelligence official here insisted the North has nearly finished preparations for a third nuclear test at a facility in Punggye-ri, North Hamgyong Province and that the only thing left is for Pyongyang to officially announce the move. "We have learned from U.S. and South Korean intelligence data that a few more specialized vehicles entered the shaft at the Punggye-ri site, proving that the North is preparing for a nuclear test as we speak," a South Korean military source said.
Citing military think tank IHS Jane's Defense and Security Intelligence and Analysis, CNN reported Tuesday that afresh activity has been detected at Punggye-ri related to an impending nuclear test. IHS Jane's analyzed recent photos taken by private satellite operators Digital Globe and GeoEye showing mining cars and other digging equipment near the shaft, and soil and rocks being moved out.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman warned that the regime has no choice but to bolster its nuclear arsenal while the U.S. keeps up "hostile" acts. "If the US persists in its moves to ratchet up sanctions and pressure on us despite our peace-loving efforts, we will be left with no option but to take counter-measures for self-defense," the spokesman said.
But the denial itself was unusual. Experts speculate the statement was an excuse for the delay of the nuclear test, which was believed to be imminent. "This is related to speculation that North Korea postponed the nuclear test due to pressure from China," said Yoo Ho-yeol at Korea University. "North Korea is trying to save face by pretending it has not caved into pressure from China but never planned a nuclear test in the first place."
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