SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s point man on North Korea said Monday that he misspoke when he said there is an “indication” that Pyongyang was preparing for a fourth nuclear test.
The South Korean warning had come a day after another Seoul official said a Pyongyang missile test may be in the works.
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told a parliamentary committee Monday that “there is such an indication” of nuclear test preparations at Pyongyang’s site in the country’s northeast.
The comments were recorded on video, but Ryoo later told lawmakers he couldn’t remember making them and didn’t mean to say them. He said he was “startled” by reports carrying his earlier comments.
Ryoo made his comment in answering a lawmaker’s question about increased personnel and vehicle activities at the North’s nuclear test site.
Ministry officials cited Ryoo as telling the lawmakers he wouldn’t provide further details because they involve confidential intelligence affairs.
Either a nuclear test or a missile test would escalate tensions that have been rising for weeks on the Korean Peninsula, and would invite a new round of UN Security Council sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear and rocket activity. The US and South Korea have been raising their defense posture, and foreign diplomats were considering a warning from Pyongyang that their safety in North Korea could not be guaranteed beginning Wednesday.
North Korea has unleashed a flurry of war threats and provocations over the UN sanctions and ongoing US-South Korean military drills, which the allies say are routine but Pyongyang says is a preparation for a northward invasion.
South Korean defense officials previously said the North completed preparations for a nuclear test at two underground tunnels. The North used one tunnel for its February 12 nuclear test. The second remains unused.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.
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