North Korea Nuclear Activity To Overshadow Obama's Trip?

Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014 11:22 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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North Korea appears to have ratcheted up its activities at its main nuclear test site just days before President Barack Obama arrives in South Korea, suggesting an underground nuclear test may be in the offing or some action to overshadow Obama's Asian trip.

While South Korean and United States officials believe the activity could mean that the country is planning a new underground test, they believe that the activity level may not be high enough to set it off before Obama leaves on Saturday, according to satellite photos of the area, reported The New York Times.

"North Korea wants attention ahead of Obama’s visit," Lee Byong-chul, senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation in Seoul, told The Times.

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North Korea could conduct nuclear tests "at any time," Congress was told by U.S. intelligence officials earlier this year, according to The Times. David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security, told The Times there was an absence of large wiring going into the test tunnel, which is needed to measure the blast.

North Korea threatened to carry out a "new form" of nuclear test, but the country did not make clear what that meant, reported the BBC News.

BBC News reported that experts do not believe North Korea has the ability to make a nuclear warhead small enough to be put on a missile but the country has tested numerous devices. North Korea has conducted underground nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

"A lot of activity is currently being seen, so our forces are keeping in mind the possibility that North Korea may suddenly conduct a nuclear test in a short period of time, or as in previous cases, deceive us with what appears to be a nuclear test," the South Korea news agency Yonhap quoted Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, according to CNN.

North Korea's actions have the potential of overshadowing Obama's trip that was meant to strengthen the United States' standing in Asia, according to the Washington Post. It was a trip he canceled last year in the midst of the government shutdown. Visits to Malaysia, the Philippines and Japan are part of the agenda.

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