South Korea announced today that it has seen increased activity in North Korea's main nuclear test site, and suspects the country could be preparing for a fourth nuclear test.
South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said on Tuesday that "our military is currently detecting a lot of activity in and around the Punggye-ri nuclear test site." Kim added that once Pyongyang decides to pull the trigger, the test could happen "at any moment." He also said, however, that the threat could be just another stunt: "We are thinking of possibilities that the North may stage a surprise nuclear test or just pretend to stage a nuclear test."
Last month, North Korea's Foreign Ministry said that “(We) would not rule out a new form of a nuclear test for bolstering up (our) nuclear deterrence." Some analysts took this to mean that the country was planning to test uranium bombs or mini warheads carried in ballistic missiles.
The latest round of North Korean bluster comes as President Barack Obama prepares to visit South Korea as part of his renewed Asia pivot. The North Korean Foreign Ministry, not surprisingly, would prefer he didn't, describing the visit as "a reactionary and dangerous one as it is aimed to escalate confrontation and bring dark clouds of a nuclear arms race to hang over this unstable region."
According to South Korea's foreign minister, if North Korea does conduct the test "it would be a game changer." But moving forward with the test, which would be the country's fourth ever, is a risky move. CNN explains:
A nuclear test would extinguish any chance of a resumption of six-country talks on North Korea's nuclear programme that China has been pushing for... "The diplomatic backlash from another nuclear test might be hard for the North to cope with," agreed Kim Yong-Hyun, a North Korean expert at DongGuk University. "I think this is more likely North Korea posturing to get some international attention," Kim said.
If there's one thing we know about North Korea, it's that it pulls out all the stops when seeking international attention. After all, who needs nuclear tests when you have these adorable photos of Kim Jong-un as a toddler to show the world.