North Korea is capable of detonating another nuclear device anytime in one of the unused tunnels at the country’s main atomic test site, South Korea has warned.
The North’s latest nuclear test was the most powerful to date and its claim to have used “standardised” warheads sparked worries it was making headway in its push to develop small and sophisticated warheads to be topped on missiles. Seoul, Washington and their allies subsequently vowed to apply more pressure and sanctions on Pyongyang.
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 Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said that South Korea and US intelligence authorities believed North Korea had the ability to detonate another atomic device anytime at the Punggye-ri test site, where the five previous atomic explosions took place.
Moon refused to say what specific evidence pointed to another possible test.
South Korea has long avoided harsh rhetoric against North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un but after Friday’s nuclear test, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Kim’s “mental state is spiralling out of control” and that his government has “fanatic recklessness”.
South Korea’s military also started talking publicly about its military capabilities, revealing it has retaliation plans involving precision-strike missiles and special operations forces for direct attacks on the North’s leadership in the case of a North Korean nuclear attack.
There were reports that the plan would turn areas in Pyongyang, where the North’s war commanders were likely to hide, into ashes and “eliminate those places from the map permanently.”
Meanwhile bad weather delayed a US plan to send warplanes from Guam to South Korea in a show of force, as it has done in the past after major provocations by North Korea.