It seems that a North Korean nuclear test is now expected sooner rather than later:
North Korea appears to have completed preparations for a nuclear test with the installation of measuring equipment near the entrance of an underground test site in Pungye-ri, North Hamgyong Province, a senior government official here said Thursday.
South Korea and the U.S. are considering military steps in addition to diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions if the North goes ahead with the test.
President Lee Myung-bak convened an emergency meeting with diplomatic and security officials on Thursday morning to discuss Seoul's options. In a statement issued after the meeting, the government said, "If North Korea pushes ahead with another provocation by misjudging the situation, it must be warned that serious consequences will follow."
A government official said, "We believe North Korea could conduct a nuclear test as early as tomorrow if it wants to, so we are closely monitoring the situation."
Meanwhile, the U.S. dispatched a reconnaissance plane with highly sensitive detection equipment to Okinawa, the New York Times reported Thursday. It "may be able to answer the question of whether the North has moved to a new generation of homemade uranium weapons," the daily added.
North Korea's planned third nuclear test will have greater significance than the two previous detonations and could fundamentally change the security environment on the Korean Peninsula, Seoul's unification minister said Friday.
In a meeting with ministry officials, Yu Woo-ik claimed the overall situation facing South Korea remains grave and made clear that it is wrong to view the expected atomic detonation in the same light as the tests conducted in 2006 and 2009.
"The first and second tests can be seen as part of Pyongyang's efforts to develop nuclear capability, while a third detonation could mean it is in the final stages (of making weapons)," he claimed.
Lecturers reportedly told assembled citizens that [South Korean] President-elect Park Geun Hye is preparing to go to war with North Korea so they must be ready to defend the nation in response.
A source from Hyesan in Yangkang Province told Daily NK today, “Lectures were convened shortly after the declaration of ‘preparation for combat mobilization.’ He said that the alliance of imperialists including the UN are sanctioning us to try and crush socialism in the only such country left in the world.”
The source added, “He stated that the new Park Geun Hye administration wants to start a war with us, so people from every organ, enterprise and Worker and Peasant Red Guard unit must prepare to meet the threat. He emphasized that the people must be on guard at all times and stay prepared to respond to any provocation.”
According to the source, the Ministry of People’s Safety is overseeing an increase in public order restrictions, including checking family homes for non-residents. Soldiers are completely prohibited from going off their bases.
Quite how seriously all this should be taken is open to question, given that regular mobilisations, together with warnings about the evil machinations of the rat-like imperialists, are all part of the usual fare that keeps the country on a permanent war footing.