There is confusion surrounding whether or not North Korea is preparing for a fourth nuclear test.
Earlier reports suggested increased activity around the North’s main underground test site. It now appears that that is not the case.
The lack of clarity does little to diffuse the tension on the Korean peninsula as North Korea continues its war rhetoric.
Kim Min-seok, from South Korea’s defence ministry said: “We all know about the possibility that North Korea would fire a ballistic missile, so we are closely monitoring with the US the North’s movement and the chances of a ballistic missile launch.”
China, one of North Korea’s few allies, has called for peace in the region. Japan meanwhile said its armed forces have orders to shoot down any North Korean missiles en route to its territory.
The UN slapped further tough sanctions on Pyongyang last month following a third nuclear test. North Korea responded by stepping up its bellicose language against Seoul and the US.
In another development the North has now pulled out all its workers from the shared Kaesong industrial complex.
Estimate of North Korea’s military power
- Around 1,000 missiles of various types: Rodong-1 (est. reach 1,300 km), Taepodong-1 (2,500 km) successfully tested; Musudan-1 (3,000 km+) never publicly tested; Taepondong-2 (6,700 km+) one failed test
- Its ballistic capacity allows North Korea to equip its missiles with conventional and chemical warheads. It is not believed Pyongyang yet has a miniaturised nuclear warhead that it can attach to these missiles
- The country has at least three nuclear sites and has conducted three nuclear tests (2006, 2009, March 2013). The regime is thought to possess enough plutonium for at least six nuclear bombs (although until miniaturised these would remain undeliverable)
- Chemical weapons: anthrax, mustard gas, sarin, phosgen (estimated quantity between 2,500 and 5,000 tons). Its bacteriological weapons programme is under development although its stage of advancement remains uncertain
- 13,500 tons of artillery, 70 submarines, 420 warships and 820 warplanes
- Ground troops: an estimated 1.2 million soldiers with another seven million in reserve