Skip to main content

South Korea: North Korea ready for nuclear test

By Stella Kim, Jethro Mullen and Andrew Demaria, CNN
updated 5:02 AM EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • South Korea official: North Korea ready for nuclear test
  • Official: Tunnel closure is last step to ready for test
  • Details come as U.S. President Obama visits South Korea

(CNN) -- North Korea has completed all of the preliminary steps required to conduct a nuclear test, a South Korean government official said.

The South detected the closure of the entrance of a tunnel at the Punggye-ri site in a northeastern region of North Korea. It means that Pyongyang is now ready for what could be its fourth nuclear test, the official said.

"This is the final step in preparing to test a nuclear device," the official said Thursday.

"In theory, there are seven to 14 days to conduct a test once the entrance is sealed."

China 'important' in dealing with N.K.
Former U.S. diplomat on Korea, Obama trip
South: N. Korea prepping for nuclear test

The official added that it was highly likely the North would test an enriched uranium device, as it does not seem to possess a lot of plutonium.

The official also said the North might launch a long-range ballistic missile instead, if it decided not to conduct a nuclear test. This would "show off their two-way track capability," the official said.

Asked if the North had been able to construct a nuclear weapon small enough to fit on a missile, the official said: "We believe that North Korea has made a considerable progress in technology to miniaturize the nuclear warhead and that they are really doing their best. In fact, North Korea is spending a substantial amount of money and time (on this)."

The comments came the day before U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in South Korea as part of a visit to several Asian countries. Obama was previously in Japan and continues on to Malaysia on Saturday.

In an interview with a South Korean newspaper ahead of his arrival Friday, Obama warned Pyongyang over the possibility of carrying out a new test.

"If North Korea were to make the mistake of engaging in another nuclear test, it should expect a firm response from the international community," Obama told Joonang Ilbo.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry earlier this week described Obama's trip 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."

South Korea's Defense Ministry said this week it had increased its military preparedness since Monday morning and was monitoring around the clock for signs of activity at the Punggye-ri site.

North Korea announced last month that it wouldn't rule "a new form of a nuclear test" to strengthen its nuclear deterrent capabilities. Experts have speculated that that could refer to the testing of a uranium bomb.

The reclusive regime in Pyongyang is known to have conducted three previous tests, all of them believed to be based on plutonium. The most recent one took place February 2013.

The past tests prompted international condemnation and the imposition of sanctions aimed at hampering the North's weapons program.

Since the last underground detonation, South Korean officials have repeatedly said that they believe North Korea is ready to carry out another test at any time, pending a political decision to go ahead with it.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Wed July 2, 2014
As diplomats discuss a string of unsolved kidnappings of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the families of those abducted anxiously wait and hope.
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
updated 11:13 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea says it plans to prosecute two American tourists that it detained earlier this year, accusing them of "perpetrating hostile acts."
updated 7:38 PM EDT, Mon June 30, 2014
North Korea proposed that "all hostile military activities" with South Korea be halted, but it attached conditions that Seoul is likely to reject.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
North Korean state news is reporting the country test-launched "cutting-edge ultra precision tactical guided missiles."
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
James Franco won't be following Dennis Rodman into North Korea anytime soon.
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
Don't you hate it when the weatherman gets it wrong? Apparently, so does Kim Jong Un.
updated 7:44 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
New signs show Russia and North Korea are developing a closer relationship.
updated 8:12 PM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
Photographer Eric Lafforgue visited North Korea and shares his inside look at the most isolated country in the world.
updated 9:25 PM EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Many North Koreans listen to illegal broadcasts on homemade radios, some are convinced to defect.
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
Jang Jin-Sung, a North Korean defector and former regime insider, speaks with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
updated 10:06 AM EDT, Tue May 13, 2014
iReporter Kenny Zhu visited North Korea in April and was able to take video footage and photos with his Google Glass during the trip.
updated 2:42 PM EDT, Tue April 29, 2014
North Korea loves saber-rattling. Here's a look at all the firepower they have stockpiled.
updated 8:03 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
CNN's Elise Labott reports on the new baby pictures of Kim Jong Un released by North Korean state media.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Wed April 2, 2014
Experts warn that under Kim Jong Un's rule, Pyongyang has shown an even greater willingness to raise the stakes than before.
updated 9:14 AM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
China and North Korea criticize a U.N. report that found crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Mon March 17, 2014
Megumi Yokota was only 13 when she was abducted by a North Korean agent in the 1970s. What happened after that?
updated 12:30 AM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
Report: North Korea uses multiple techniques to defy sanctions, and shows no signs of abandoning its nuclear missile programs.
ADVERTISEMENT