North Korea Likely to Time Atomic Test for Maximum Attention: Expert

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
May 1, 2014, 8:29 a.m.

North Korea may hold off on con­duct­ing a nuc­le­ar test un­til it feels the event will draw max­im­um glob­al at­ten­tion, Stars and Stripes re­por­ted.

Re­cent com­mer­cial satel­lite pho­to­graphs of the North’s Punggye-ri nuc­le­ar test site re­veal a great deal of activ­ity that is likely re­lated to pre­par­a­tions for an­ther un­der­ground atom­ic ex­plo­sion, ex­perts say. While some in South Korea pre­dicted that Py­ongy­ang would choose to det­on­ate its fourth device dur­ing U.S. Pres­id­ent Obama’s vis­it to Seoul last week­end, that nev­er happened.

Ohm Tae-am, an ana­lyst with the Korea In­sti­tute for De­fense Ana­lyses, told the news­pa­per on Thursday that the North might be delay­ing its test be­cause oth­er in­ter­na­tion­al events are at­tract­ing so much at­ten­tion.

The April 16 sink­ing of a ferry filled with South Korean stu­dents has dis­trac­ted Seoul, he said. “South Korea’s in­terest in inter-Korean re­la­tions has been pushed aside, and be­cause of that, North Korea is not likely to con­duct its fourth nuc­le­ar test now,” Ohm said.

Mean­while, the “U.S. has its eyes on the Middle East and Ukraine right now,” said the ana­lyst.

The North Korean for­eign min­istry on Tues­day said there was “no stat­ute of lim­it­a­tions” for when Py­ongy­ang might carry out its re­peatedly threatened “new” kind of atom­ic demon­stra­tion.

The ex­pert web­site 38 North in a Wed­nes­day ana­lys­is of satel­lite im­ages taken the day pri­or con­cluded a “high level of activ­ity” con­tin­ues to be seen at the test site.

“If North Korea fol­lows pre­vi­ous test prac­tices, a con­tin­ued high level of activ­ity in­dic­ates that a nuc­le­ar test is not yet im­min­ent,” reads the brief by im­age ex­pert Jack Liu. “Be­fore the Feb­ru­ary 2013 det­on­a­tion, all equip­ment, vehicles and per­son­nel were with­drawn im­me­di­ately be­fore the blast.”

Liu said he could not see signs that any of the tun­nels at the test site had been closed off, which is typ­ic­ally one of the fi­nal steps be­fore a nuc­le­ar blast takes place.

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