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North Korea May Be Preparing Second Test

US intelligence detects "sub-kilotonne" blast in North Korea
Washington (AFP) Oct 9 - US intelligence has detected an explosion of less than one kilotonne in magnitude in North Korea but has not been able to determine whether it was nuclear or not, a senior intelligence official said Monday. The official, who asked not to be identified, said that first-time nuclear tests historically have been in the several kilotonne range.

"We are aware that there was a sub-kilotonne explosion in North Korea," said the official. "We have not been able to determine at this point whether it was in fact nuclear." North Korea announced earlier that it had conducted an underground nuclear test, calling it an "historic event" that would contribute to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.

Other experts around the world reported a seismic event on the Korean peninsula that registered between 3.58 and 4.2 on the Richter scale. Norwegian monitors said their readings indicated an explosion of between one and 10 kilotonnes. Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said it was "too early" to say whether the blast detected in North Korea was a nuclear device.

"We're evaluating the information that we have as a government. As the president said, we've not been able to confirm it," he said, referring to a statement earlier by President George W. Bush. Besides seismic data, the US military collects air samples that can be examined for particulates indicative of a nuclear test. North Korean communications and electronic signals also would be targeted and analyzed for clues.

The relatively small size of the explosion could make positive confirmation of a nuclear test more difficult, a defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He added that the US government had to proceed carefully because of possible North Korean deception. "I don't think you can rule out the possibility that he's faking out the world," the official said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Photo courtesy of AFP.

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Oct 09, 2006
Unusual activities were detected in a rugged area in North Korea on Monday, causing South Korean authorities to suspect that the communist state might be preparing a second nuclear test, a news report said. Kim Seung-Gyu, head of South Korea's spy agency, told parliament that activity involving vehicles and some 30 to 40 people was under way at Punggyeri in the northeastern county of Kilju, Yonhap news agency reported.

"From three p.m. (06:00 GMT) today, there have been some unusual movements under way at Punggyeri where we had thought the first nuclear test would be carried out," Kim was quoted as saying.

"We have been closely following developments there to find out whether North Korea is moving to conduct a series of tests as India and Pakistan did," he said.

An unidentified lawmaker who serves on parliament's intelligence committee quoted Kim as telling the committee that there is a "sufficient possibility" of the North carrying out further nuclear tests.

Punggyeri is where vehicle movements and the unloading of large reels of cable were spotted by satellite images last month, prompting speculation that a nuclear test was being prepared.

Punggyeri is some 30 kilometers (20 miles) northeast of Hwadaeri, where South Korean officials said Monday's test appeared to have been carried out.

Kim was also quoted as saying that North Korea is believed to have stored up to 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of plutonium, enough to make as many as seven nuclear bombs.

"North Korea is believed to have stored some 30 to 40 kilograms of plutonium," he was quoted as telling the intelligence committee.

Chung Hyung-Keun, an opposition Grand National Party lawmaker who serves on the committee, quoted the intelligence chief as making the plutonium comments.

The 40 kilograms includes 10-12 kilograms that it had secured before it opened its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Pyongyang, to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, Kim said.

"As one bomb needs five to six kilograms of plutonium, North Korea would be able to make up to seven atomic bombs," Chung told journalists.

"We cannot rule out the possibility of the North carrying out further nuclear tests as Pakistan, for example, carried out six nuclear tests," he said.

Pakistan was the last nation, in May 1998, to conduct a nuclear weapons test.

earlier related report
Nuclear test was low power and conducted in mountain tunnel
Seoul (AFP) Oct 9 - North Korea's nuclear test Monday was low-powered and is believed to have been conducted in a horizontal tunnel dug deep inside a mountain on its northeast coast, experts said.

The first scientists knew of it was when they detected seismic waves caused by an artificial explosion, but there was no immediate report of radioactivity.

The activity measured 3.6 on the Richter scale, which could be caused by the explosion of the equivalent of 800 tonnes of dynamite, said Chi Heon-Cheol, head of the Korea Earthquake Research Centre.

Another unidentified expert quoted by Yonhap news agency said the blast was equivalent to about 550 tonnes of TNT judging by the seismic tremor.

The US atomic bomb which destroyed Hiroshima during World War II was comparable to 12,500 tons of TNT.

Intelligence officials told South Korea's parliament the test appeared to have been carried out in a 360-meter-high (1,200 feet) mountain northwest of the Musudan missile base in the Hwadaeri region, according to lawmaker Chung Hyong-Keun.

He quoted an intelligence official as saying: "In consideration of the height of the mountain, the test appeared to have been done in a horizontal tunnel."

The North's official media said it had successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions, with no radiation leak.

"It has been confirmed that there was no such danger from radioactive emission in the course of the nuclear test, as it was carried out under scientific consideration and careful calculation," the Korean Central News Agency said.

"The nuclear test was conducted with indigenous wisdom and technology, 100 percent," it added.

Seoul officials said the test was detected through seismic waves coming from the Hwadaeri region near the town of Kilju in North Hamgyong Province at 10:36 am (0136 GMT).

Chi Heon-Cheol, head of the Korea Earthquake Research Centre, said the seismic activity took place 15.4 kilometers (10 miles) northwest of Hwadaeri.

"The peculiarity of the seismic waves indicated there was an artificial explosion, not a natural earthquake," Chi told journalists.

No excessive radioactivity was immediately detected in South Korea, experts said.

"No radioactivity has not yet been detected from the alleged nuclear test," said Han Seung-Jae, director of the state-run Nuclear Emergency Preparedness Department (NEPD), before confirmation of the blast.

"It might not be detected at all if the alleged nuclear testing was conducted in a tightly sealed atmosphere such as a deep tunnel, and all radioactive rays and fallout are contained," he said.

The NEPD operates 37 observation posts to detect radioactivity, including one on the southeastern island of Ullung. Prevailing winds might have carried any radioactivity in that direction.

In an October 3 statement announcing the planned test, the North pledged never to use nuclear weapons first and strictly to ban the transfer of nuclear weapons and technology.

"The ... nuclear weapons will serve as reliable war deterrent for protecting the supreme interests of the state and the security of the Korean nation from the US threat of aggression and averting a new war..." it said at the time.

North Korea is believed to have produced enough weapons-grade plutonium to make several crude nuclear bombs, according to US and South Korean experts.

It also has an advanced missile programme, although it is not known whether it has the technological skill to arm one with a nuclear warhead.

On July 5 North Korea test-fired seven missiles into the sea -- including a Taepodong-2 believed to be technically capable of hitting the United States.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
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Key Points Of Proposed US Sanctions Draft On North Korea Nuclear Test
United Nations (AFP) Oct 09, 2006
US-proposed Security Council sanctions over North Korea's atom-bomb test would include international inspection of inbound and outbound cargo to curb proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, a Western diplomat said Monday. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the inspections were part of 13 elements for a draft resolution circulated by US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton earlier Monday to punish Pyongyang for its first-ever nuclear weapons test.

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