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South Korean minister says North Korea 'preparing a fourth nuclear test'

Seoul’s Unification minister says there are signs that North Korea is preparing yet another test, as tensions remain high.

South Korean vehicles returning home from North Korea's Kaesong complex are escorted by a South Korean military.
South Korean vehicles returning home from North Korea's Kaesong complex are escorted by a South Korean military.
Image: Lee Jin-man/AP

A SOUTH KOREAN MINISTER has said there are indications that North Korea is preparing another nuclear test.

Unification minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told a meeting of MPs that Seoul was “aware of indications” that a further test was being planned, but declined to go into any detail.

The North has carried out three previous tests, of escalating intensity. The most recent was on February 12, with a seismic intensity of 5.1.

The two previous tests, in October 2006 and May 2009, had magnitudes of 4.3 and 4.7 respectively.

South Korea’s official news agency Yonhap said that country’s ministry of defence was playing down the possibility of a fourth test, saying Pyongyang was almost always readying tests of some sort – though the timing of any test would be a political matter.

Seoul has sent a special envoy to North Korea to try and de-escalate the growing tensions between the two countries, where the North has threatened to respond to any further military drills by the South and the United States.

Ryoo told MPs that Seoul would ‘put its pride aside’ to enter talks and ease the tensions, but admitted that any success was unlikely for now given the North Korean government’s apparent unwillingness to engage.

He said he could not understand or explain why North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had decided to disrupt operations at the Kaesong industrial zone, a commercial complex on the border between the two countries which doubles as the only fully-functioning border crossing between the two.

North Korea itself sent an envoy to the Kaesong zone yesterday to examine the area, and asserted that the North had blocked Southern access to the area because of remarks by South Korea and the United States “slandering the dignity of [North Korea] over the zone”.

Read: US delays missile test to cool North Korea tensions

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Gavan Reilly

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