U.S. Officials Say There are Indications North Korea is Preparing for a Third Nuclear Test

Jun 11, 2009 7:26pm

ABC News' Luis Martinez reports: U.S. officials say there are indications that North Korea may be preparing for a third nuclear test. A U.S. official tells ABCNews,”We can’t rule out the possibility that North Korea will detonate another nuclear device. There are signs that they may be considering this, but it’s unclear if ultimately they will go through with a test. All options appear to be on the North Korean regime’s table.” As early as Friday, the United Nations Security Council could pass a resolution to impose tough sanctions against North Korea for the nuclear test conducted this past Memorial Day. The draft resolution would allow countries to interdict North Korean vessels that might be carrying sensitive material or arms and impose tougher financial restrictions to prevent funding for North Korea’s military and nuclear programs.   Seismic readings at the time of North Korea’s second nuclear test indicated a “seismic event” measuring 4.5 on the Richter Scale, presumed to be from an underground nuclear test.  However, initial testing of air samples taken shortly after the test two weeks ago have proved inconclusive for the presence of radioactive isotopes. The Office of Director Of National Intelligence (ODNI) is expected to release its final conclusions on the air samples possibly as early as Friday.
North Korea’s first nuclear test in October 2006 was considered to be a dud because it produced a smaller Richter reading of 4.1 and released minimal radioactive isotopes.  Recent activity at North Korea’s long range missile launch facilities seems to indicate that the possible launches of mid-range and long-range missiles do not seem imminent. Officials say that missile components, for what is believed to be a long-range Taepodong-2 missile, recently delivered to North Korea’s western launch facility at TongChang Dong have not been stacked on the launch pad. A US official says “we’re a ways away [from a launch], if it happens at all.”  A Defense official also says there has not been any new activity at this facility that would indicate a missile is being prepared for launch. Activity at North Korea’s eastern launch facility at Musudan Ri had led to speculation in the South Korean media North Korea might be preparing for a mid-range missile there, but a Defense official said there had not been any stacking activity at that location either. He indicated that though movement has been detected at both missile sites,  “we haven’t seen them putting anything together” at either facility.  The North launched a long-range Taepodong-2 missile on April 5 that traveled 2,000 miles and landed in the Pacific Ocean, but US officials considered that test to be a failure because the missile’s third stage failed to separate from its second stage and fell into the ocean.  

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