South Korea and the U.S. pledged to work together to meet the threat of North Korea developing weapons of mass destruction amid indications the country may be planning a third nuclear test.
The countries reaffirmed their commitment to coping with additional North Korean provocative actions and threats, such as the firing of a long-distance missile and a nuclear weapon test, South Korea’s National Defense Ministry said in an e-mailed statement today after a meeting earlier this week in Washington of the so-called Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue.
It was the first round of talks between the defense authorities since North Korea launched a rocket April 13 that disintegrated shortly after takeoff. North Korea has escalated threats against South Korea and the U.S. in recent weeks as the new leader Kim Jong Un celebrates the centennial of the birth of the country’s founder, his late grandfather Kim Il Sung.
U.S. satellite pictures from April 18 may show further activity at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear testing site, the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington said today on its website called “38 North.”
The imagery “supports the contention that preparations are continuing and that the North Koreans are preceding as if the test go-ahead decision has already been made,” the report said. The pictures don’t “give any indication of when that detonation may take place.”
North Korean watchers, such as David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, expect the regime in Pyongyang will try to conduct an underground nuclear explosion, a move that would stoke tensions with South Korea, the U.S. and the United Nations Security Council.
North Korea is already under UN sanctions for its two past nuclear tests, and the Security Council censured Kim’s government after this month’s rocket launch. That firing prompted a rare public admission of failure to the outside world and raised questions about whether Kim can secure his grip on the military and government as he confronts global condemnation and an economy that struggles to feed its own people.
Kim, who inherited power on the death of his father Kim Jong Il in December, observed a combined arms exercise to mark the 80th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said today, without specifying the date of the exercise.
South Korea and the U.S. also said they will strengthen cooperation in space and cyber-technology, the South Korean Defense Ministry said in its report on the talks in Washington held on April 26-27.
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