North Korea Digging Tunnel for Nuke Test: Seoul

And piles of dirt at the Punggye-ri site indicate it could happen soon

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 9, 2012 7:04 AM CDT

(Newser) – North Korea looks to be preparing a third nuclear test, the AP reports: New photos show work on an underground tunnel—at the site of two earlier such tests—is nearly finished, say South Korean intelligence officials. "North Korea is covertly preparing for a third nuclear test, which would be another grave provocation," says the intelligence report, noting that dirt piled at the tunnel's opening indicates there's a "high possibility" Pyongyang could launch the test—soon. That's because plugging tunnels with dirt was the final step taken during its two previous nuclear tests at the Punggye-ri site, in 2006 and 2009.

Meanwhile, the North is almost ready to start fueling a long-range rocket; it will be launched April 12-13, according to Pyongyang. While officials there say the rocket's goal is to send a satellite into space, the US fears the country is preparing a prohibited missile launch. The North has aimed to reassure journalists by inviting them to view preparations, Yonhap News reports. "If you look for yourselves with your own eyes, then you can judge whether it's a ballistic missile, or whether it's a launch vehicle to put a satellite into orbit," the launch site's boss told the group of the 100-foot-long red- and blue-painted rocket, according to CNN journalists who were present.

South Koreans watch a TV news program which shows North Korea's Unha-3 rocket at Seoul train station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, April 9, 2012.
South Koreans watch a TV news program which shows North Korea's Unha-3 rocket at Seoul train station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, April 9, 2012.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A mock North Korea's Scud-B missile, center, and other South Korean missiles are displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2012.
A mock North Korea's Scud-B missile, center, and other South Korean missiles are displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 27, 2012.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
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