South Korea says North is preparing for ‘imminent’ fifth nuclear test

South Korea’s president says there are signs North Korea is preparing for a fifth nuclear bomb test amid reports of increased activity at the country’s main nuclear test site. Increased activity of personnel and equipment at two key nuclear sites has been observed, heightening concerns. President Park Geun-hye said North Korea could carry out such a test to try to bolster morale as the country deals with tough international sanctions imposed after it conducted a fourth nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch earlier this year. Park ordered the military to be ready to deal with any provocation by Pyongyang.

We are in a situation, in which we don’t know whether North Korea could stage provocation as a move to overcome its isolation and to consolidate its internal unity.

President Park Geun-hye

Speculation about a fifth nuclear test increased last month when the North’s state media cited leader Kim Jong Un as ordering a test of a nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles capable of carrying warheads. Kim’s order came amid rising animosity with South Korea and the United States over their annual military drills that North Korea describes as an invasion rehearsal. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Monday that South Korean and U.S. authorities detected two to three times more vehicle and personnel activities than normal this month at the North’s north-east Punggye-ri nuclear test site — where all previous four bomb tests took place. A U.S. monitoring website saw further signs from satellite imagery that the North was looking to produce more plutonium for nuclear weapons at its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex, north of Pyongyang.