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(LEAD) N. Korean nuclear test site shows increased activity: Seoul

2014/04/22 16:41

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- Heightened activity has been detected at North Korea's underground nuclear test site, indicating possible preparations for another atomic test, a South Korean government spokesman said Tuesday.

North Korea has been watched closely for signs of another nuclear test after it threatened last month to conduct a "new form" of test, which experts say could mean the use of a uranium-based device. North Korea's three previous nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 are believed to have used plutonium.

The increased activity could have greater repercussions as it comes ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's official two-day visit to Seoul that starts Friday.

"A lot of activity is currently being seen, so our forces are keeping in mind the possibility that North Korea may suddenly conduct a nuclear test in a short period of time, or as in previous cases, deceive us with what appears to be a nuclear test," Kim Min-seok, the spokesman for Seoul's defense ministry, said in a press briefing.

North Korea appears to be ready to carry out a nuclear test at any time if it wishes, and the communist nation has recently made remarks claiming to be preparing something "unimaginable" for its enemies and "something big" before April 30, the spokesman added.

A crisis management task force was set up between the defense ministry and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Monday to prepare for any eventualities.

South Korea is mustering diplomatic efforts to deter an additional nuclear test by the North, the foreign ministry said in a separate news briefing.

"The government's assessment is that North Korea is ready to conduct an additional nuclear test at any time upon a political decision (to do so)," foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said. "The foreign ministry is frequently sharing related information with other ministries and keeping a close watch on North Korea's movements under close cooperation with the U.S. and other countries," he said.

The ministry is also making efforts to help the international community form a unified voice to warn the North against military provocations, he also noted.

hague@yna.co.kr

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