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Seoul Now Says No Signs Of Imminent North Korea Nuclear Test

South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence, near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul.
South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence, near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul.
By RFE/RL
South Korean officials are backtracking on comments that North Korea may be preparing a fourth nuclear test.

The statement came shortly after a South Korean cabinet minister said there was an "indication" of preparations at the North's main atomic test site. Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae later said he "misspoke" in his comments to a parliamentary committee.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said "there were activities" at the North's Punggye-ri test site, but they "appear to be usual routine activities."

"We have told you at briefings since last February that North Korea had finished its preparations in the south tunnel as well as in the west tunnel to conduct a nuclear test. The situation remains the same," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a news conference earlier on April 8.

Tensions have been rising on the Korean peninsula since North Korea carried out its third nuclear test last month, which led to a tightening of UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

North Korea has issued several threats since then, including of a nuclear strike against the United States.

Last week, North Korea said it could not guarantee the safety of foreign embassy staff in Pyongyang beginning Wednesday.

There has been no sign so far that foreign embassies are preparing to evacuate their staff from Pyongyang.

South Korea's national security director said on April 7 that North Korea might also be planning a missile launch or other provocation sometime around April 10.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on April 8 urged North Korea to refrain from "any further provocative measures."

The United States postponed a ballistic-missile test scheduled this week, citing concerns it could be misinterpreted by North Korea.

On April 8, North Korea said it would pull all North Korean workers out of an industrial complex in North Korea run jointly with South Korea.

Pyongyang has already blocked South Koreans from entering the Kaesong Industrial Park just across the border inside North Korea. South Korean companies have employed thousands of North Korean workers there over the past decade.

Analysts have suggested North Korea's warlike rhetoric may be aimed to affirm the authority of the North's 30-year-old leader, Kim Jong Un, among his own people.

The North on April 15 marks the birthday anniversary of its founder, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un's grandfather.

With reporting by AP and BBC

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