North Korea Ups Nuclear Test Site Activity, Which May Be A Reaction To President Obama's Trip
As if South Korea didn't have enough on its plate. Just days before President Barack Obama is due to arrive in Seoul, South Korean officials have reported that North Korea has stepped up activity at its main nuclear test site. According to South Korean defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok, the military is "currently detecting a lot of activity in and around the Punggye-ri nuclear test site."
This could mean that North Korea is planning to hold a surprise nuclear test, or just wants to pretend to the world it is preparing to stage a nuclear test.
Kim (no, not that one) said that, since Monday morning, the Defense Ministry has increased its military preparedness, and it was monitoring the site in the northeast of North Korea for any signs of activity. He added that he believes North Korea to be ready for a nuclear test at any moment. Good!
South Korean officials are aware that the anniversary of North Korea's Korean People's Army falls on Friday, the same day that Obama is due to arrive. Some are concerned that Pyongyang will choose to mark the day with military aggression.
Obama set off on a planned four-country tour of the region on Tuesday. He is due to visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in an attempt to reinforce diplomatic relations in the region. The visit was due to take place last October, but was postponed due to the government shutdown.
Unsurprisingly, North Korea isn't too pleased about Obama's trip. On Monday the country's Foreign Ministry described it as "reactionary and dangerous," and "aimed to escalate confrontation and bring dark clouds of a nuclear arms race to hang over this unstable region." So yeah, not happy.
North Korea's relationship with both South Korea and the United States has taken a bit of a nosedive recently, and Pyongyang has carried out several practice missile launches in recent months. There's even been exchange of fire between the two Koreas across a maritime border. North Korea has also successfully carried out nuclear tests in the past, in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
But actually carrying out a test while Obama is in the neighboring country would escalate tensions to a whole new level, and could risk alienating Pyongyang's only ally — China. It would also put an end to any hope of resurrecting six-country talks on North Korea's nuclear program, which China has been urging.
You're probably safe, Obama. Probably.