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World Watches for Nuclear Test by North Korea

Suspicions arise about North Koreans plans for a nuclear test.
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April 8, 2013 - North Korea has been making preparations for a nuclear test, South Korean officials said, although the test may not be imminent.

The unification minister for South Korea, Ryoo Kihl-jae, told members of Parliament that increased traffic around the mountainous test site of Punggye-ri in North Korea was a sign that a test might be in preparation. He added that there is no indication that the test will be very soon.

His comments came as North Korea said it would remove its workers from an industrial complex it operates in cooperation with South Korea. Last week it forbade South Korean workers from entering. North Korea also said in its announcement that it would consider closing the facility permanently.

The moves and comments came as tensions mount in the region. Nuclear diplomacy has suffered serious setbacks this year. On Feb. 12 North Korea conducted a nuclear test at Punggye-ri, setting off a chain of actions and counter actions. On March 7 the United Nations responded by increasing sanctions on North Korea. The communist country quickly threatened pre-emptive nuclear and conventional military action, placing its forces on alert. It also said it would restart its nuclear plant at Yongbyon.

The United States has moved warplanes, missile defense ships and surveillance equipment to the region. Officials have said they do not believe North Korea will go to war but that preparations are warranted.

Prior Coverage

April 3, 2013 - North Korea increased tensions in Asia by closing its borders to South Korean workers after saying it would restart its nuclear plant at Yongbyon.

Over the last month actions and counter-actions between the reclusive Communist country and the international community have raised concerns and uncertainties over peace in the trouble Asian peninsula.

On March 7 the United Nations imposed new sanctions on North Korea to curb its weapons proliferation activities. North Korea responded quickly by saying it would prepare for a nuclear first strike on the United States. Since the United States has focused more military attention on Northeast Asia, sending war planes on training and other missions over South Korea and increasing surveillance.

Recently North Korea has placed its missiles on alert and severed many communication ties with South Korea. The US White House said that while it is taking the actions and statements of North Korea seriously, it has not observed significant mobilization of the North Korean military. In the past North Korea has used bellicose language to negotiate more foreign aid. However, the new ruler, Kim Jung-un, has yet to demonstrate his leadership style fully in foreign affairs.

March 25, 2013 - Pressure is mounting on North Korea in response to its nuclear arms program.

In early March North Korea threatened a first strike on the United States, asserting that the US was organizing its own hostile actions against the reclusive Communist state.

In response the international community has further isolated the country. The US and South Korea announced that they had signed a detailed pact to counter military moves from the north. Previously the US had conducted two B-52 training flights over the Korean peninsula.

On March 7, the day of the North Korean threat, the United Nations imposed new sanctions on the country in response to a nuclear test in February. The sanctions would impose restrictions on banking, trade and travel associated with North Korea.

Transit inspections

Among the sanctions is a provision for countries to inspect North Korean ships more thoroughly. Neighboring China, which sometimes has argued on behalf of North Korea, has begun to step up border inspections.

Japan recently revealed that last August a ship from North Korea had been carrying aluminum rods suitable for high-tech centrifuges used in nuclear production. The ship was destined for Burma.


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North Korea Weapons Timeline

2013
Jul 10
A North Korean freighter was stopped at the Panama canal, suspected of carrying drugs. Instead inspectors found 27 containers of military hardware, including two MIG-21 aircraft, missiles and air defense equipment. (Update: Most of the crew was released in Feb. 2014, but three members remained in custody on charges of arms smuggling.)

2014
Mar 04
North Korea tested new rocket launchers capable of reaching the South Korean capital of Seoul. The rockets, fired from the coastal city of Wosan, flew 96 miles over the ocean before landing in water.