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Potential Nuclear Testing in North Korea
A South Korean defense ministry spokesman claims they are “currently detecting a lot of activity in and around the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.” This could be a sign that North Korea is planning a nuclear test, or could be planning to pretend to execute a nuclear test. Last month North Korea threatened to perform a “new form” of nuclear test. South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yun Byung-se, has warned of the dangers of another nuclear test and says “It will be a game changer” if North Korea goes ahead with nuclear tests.
North Korea has previously tested nuclear weapons in 2006, 2009 and 2013, each time with more sophisticated technology and increasing international tension. All of the previous tests appear to have been executed at test site called Punggye-ri, also known as P'unggye-yok in eastern North Korea.
In October of 2006 North Korea announced that it had successfully performed an underground nuclear explosion. This first nuclear device was based on plutonium and was not very powerful. The blast measured less than one kiloton, less than a tenth of the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Analysis of radioactive debris in air samples performed by US intelligence officials confirmed the test.
In May of 2009 North Korea tested a second nuclear device. This second test was an estimated 20 kilotons, similar to the American bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. Though North Korea never gave details about the location of the test, several sources believe that it was near P'unggye-yok. Both the United States and South Korea detected seismic activity consistent with nuclear testing in the area. North Korea later confirmed that the test was "part of measures to enhance the Republic's self-defensive nuclear deterrent in all directions."
In February of 2013 unusual seismic activity was detected in North Korea in the area near P'unggye-yok. North Korea later confirmed that it had successfully tested a device. The Korean Central News Agency confirmed that the test used “a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment.”
Nuclear testing has long been a source of conflict and tension internationally. Years of discussion about American aid to North Korea preceded the first nuclear test in October 2006. After the first nuclear test the UN approved economic and military sanctions against North Korea. In February 2007 North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear reactor in Yongbyon in order to receive aid and diplomatic concessions. However, North Korea accused its negotiating partners of failing to meet their agreed conditions and shortly after North Korea performed their second nuclear test in May 2009. Following the second nuclear test the UN tightened sanctions, before North Korea agreed to resume nuclear talks in in August of 2009. President Barack Obama is set to visit South Korea in the end of April as part of an Asia tour.