‘North Korea capable of next nuclear test anytime’
North Korea is capable of detonating another nuclear device at its main atomic test site any time it chooses, Seoul officials said on Monday, as the United States reportedly planned to send two nuclear-capable supersonic bombers to the South in a show of force against Pyongyang.
The speculation came three days after the North conducted its fifth atomic bomb explosion. Friday’s test was the North’s most powerful to date, and its claim to have used “standardized” warheads has sparked worries it was making headway in its push to develop small and sophisticated warheads to be topped on missiles.
After the test, the North’s nuclear weapons institute said it would take unspecified measures to further boost its nuclear capability, which analysts said hinted at a possible sixth nuclear test.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun on Monday said that South Korea and US intelligence authorities believe that North Korea has the ability to detonate another atomic device anytime at one of its tunnels at its main Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where the five previous atomic explosions took place.
Moon refused to say what specific evidence pointed to another possible nuclear test. But Yonhap news agency, citing unidentified Seoul government sources, on Monday reported that there were signs that the North had finished test preparations at one tunnel that has never been used. Yonhap did not elaborate.
Seoul, Washington and their allies vowed to apply more pressure and sanctions after the test, the second this year.
Meanwhile, Monday’s bad weather delayed for at least 24 hours a US plan to send warplanes from Guam to South Korea, as it has done after past provocations by North Korea.
Yonhap said the US military will try to fly two B-1 bombers, capable of carrying 24 atomic weapons, over its main air base near Seoul on Tuesday. The US military said some aircraft will be deployed tomorrow but declined to disclose what type or how many planes.