S. Korea military observes movement at suspected nuclear site in North
SEOUL, South Korea &
South Korea's military is observing movements at a site in North Korea where the communist country is believed to have conducted its first nuclear test, indicating possible preparations for another test, Yonhap news agency reported Saturday.
The report, citing multiple unnamed military officials, said South Korea is closely monitoring movements of trucks and North Korean soldiers at the site in Punggye-ri in the country's remote northeast.
"It is clear there are movements at Punggye-ri after the nuclear test," one military official was quoted as saying. "We are closely monitoring to see if these are preparations for a second nuclear test."
Another official also confirmed activities at the North Korean site but said another test "is not believed to be imminent," according to Yonhap.
In Washington, the State Department declined to comment. A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Maj. David Smith said: "We don't discuss intelligence issues as a matter of policy."
North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test on Oct. 9, prompting the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions.
It was not immediately clear how the military officials first spotted the activity at the site. However, the United States and South Korea generally share intelligence information obtained through satellite imagery.
Meanwhile, more unidentified South Korean government sources said they are trying to confirm whether a new facility that has been built at the site could be part of preparations for a second nuclear test, the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported Saturday.
Defense officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The news came a day after the South's Foreign Minister and incoming U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Chinese leaders to discuss sanctions against the North over its Oct. 9 underground nuclear test.
Ban met with Chinese President Hu Jintao, State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing on Friday. South Korea's Foreign Ministry said they would discuss sanctions, but details of their talks were not immediately released.
Ban is visiting the five permanent U.N. Security Council members following his election as secretary-general this month. He pledged to make resolving the North Korea nuclear issue a key priority on his agenda as head of the international body.
The United States has been trying muster greater support for a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for sanctions in response to the North's nuclear test.
Seoul and Beijing have been reluctant to enforce sanctions over the Oct. 9 test for fear they might aggravate their unpredictable neighbor and destabilize the region.
As the North's main aid providers and trade partners, China and South Korea's participation are considered crucial for the success of the United Nations resolution, which bans the sale of major arms to the North and calls for inspection of cargo entering and leaving the country.
Associated Press writers Meraiah Foley in Seoul and Audra Ang in Beijing contributed to this report.