by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Dec 14, 2012
North Korea will likely conduct a third nuclear test following its successful launch of a long-range rocket in the face of global condemnation, a top South Korean official said Friday.
"A nuclear test is highly probable, and judging from analysis of intelligence, significant preparations have been made," Unification Minister Yu Woo-Ik told a parliamentary committee, without elaborating.
"North Korea has a track record of conducting nuclear tests following missile launches whose aim was to develop a delivery system for nuclear warheads," Yu said.
The North's previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 were both carried out within months of long-range rocket launches.
Pyongyang insists Wednesday's launch was a purely scientific mission aimed at placing a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite in space, but most of the world saw it as a disguised ballistic missile test.
The UN Security Council has condemned the latest launch and warned of possible measures over what the US called a "highly provocative" act.
Another nuclear test would prompt a much stronger reaction, including from China which, as the North's only major ally and main economic benefactor, has previously resisted calls for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang.
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
Learn about missile defense at SpaceWar.com
All about missiles at SpaceWar.com
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com