September 13, 2016 11:48
North Korea is ready to conduct another nuclear test any time, the Defense Ministry here said Monday.
"Assessment by South Korean and U.S. intelligence is that the North is ready for an additional nuclear test in the Punggye-ri area whenever it wants," Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun told reporters.
"North Korea has a couple of tunnels where it can conduct an additional nuclear test," Moon added.
There are thought to be three main tunnels at the Punggye-ri site, each with branch tunnels that lead to other test areas. Tunnel No. 1 was sealed after the first test in 2006, while the second to fifth nuclear tests took place in tunnel No. 2. According to Moon, the additional tests could take place in the remaining branch shafts of tunnel No. 2 or tunnel No. 3.
Earlier, National Intelligence Service chief Lee Byung-ho was summoned to the National Assembly after the spy agency was taken by surprise by the latest test on Friday.
Lee told lawmakers he "would not be surprised" if the North conducts a sixth and even seventh nuclear test.
Kim Hwang-rok, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, met with the heads of ruling and opposition parties and also said North Korea could conduct more nuclear tests judging by the existence of "two to three more tunnels."
The intervals between the North's nuclear tests have shrunk from over three years to eight months. The North claimed the fourth test in January was of a hydrogen bomb, but that seems unlikely. The latest and most powerful test so far was of a "warhead" for a missile, North Korean state media have claimed.
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