South Korean officials have warned that the North may be planning to launch another nuclear test. This news has come ahead of the official visit by President Obama. But officials are not sure if the test is legitimate, or just a bluff on behalf of their northern counterparts.
Kim Min-Seok, spokesman for the defence ministry in Korea has stated that there has been a lot of activity around the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri. In the past, North Korea has staged at least three separate tests, but this time, the South will take it as a “game-changer.” In February 2013, the northern region conducted a test that led to several months of severe tension between the two areas of the Korean peninsula.
This time around, the North is promising a “new form” of nuclear test. The region stated this after they were condemned for its mid-range missile testing in March. But it has been said that the activity seen at Punggye-ri might simply be a tactic to scare the US on the eve of President Obama’s visit to South Korea. It has also been said that a test could risk the alliance that the North has with its big brother neighbor, China.
A test now could perhaps stall discussions that are currently taking place over a nuclear program that China desires. Talks have already broken down after the US and South Korea demanded that the North take steps towards the denuclearization of their area.
In addition, if North Korea was to go ahead with their test, it may cause economic issues with China, who they rely on for support. However, they now have some extra backing from Russia who has just agreed to wipe the debt owed to it by the nation. Russia has absorbed 90 percent of the $10.96 billion owed.
Obama is going to the South during his tour of Asia. There has already been speculation that the North would provoke some kind of encounter while Obama is in the nation. Northern capital Pyongyang has warned that the trip by the US president was “dangerous” as it would spark tension among the two military factions in Korea. This may be the reason why they have been seen to be making plans for a nuclear test ahead of the visit.
The break down of relations between the two regions has sadly returned to hostilities after a successful reunion of families that were separated by the split between the North and South. The South has claimed that it would like to emulate Germany and reunify with the North. But Kim Jong-Un has other plans as seen through this most recent threat.
For South Korea, this comes ahead of the recent tragedy of the ferry that sunk off its coast. The nation is already in mourning over the tragedy. However, they may be hoping that the warning they received about the northern plans for a nuclear test are just “posturing” without any actual intent to go ahead. If a test was to take place, it could mean that president Obama may have to pull out of his decision to visit the south.
By Sara Watson