South Korea brushed off a television report Tuesday that North Korea is preparing for a third nuclear test, amid heightened cross-border tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship last month.
South Korean YTN TV, quoting an unidentified diplomatic source in Beijing, said North Korea had begun the preparations in February for a test possibly in May or June.
But South Korean Foreign minister Yu Myung-Hwan told journalists: “There are no signs of the North preparing for a third nuclear test.”
Analysts in Seoul also dismissed the report as implausible.
YTN TV had said the preparations involved significantly upgraded technology compared with its previous two tests. It said Pyongyang had been receiving technological assistance from Russians and that a senior North Korean official recently visited Beijing to discuss a possible test.
North Korea carried out its first nuclear test in 2006 and a second in May last year, after it walked out of six-party nuclear disarmament talks.
Analysts in Seoul said however that the isolated communist state had little reason to carry out another nuclear test at a time when its ally China is struggling to revive the stalled disarmament talks.
Baek Seung-Joo of the prestigious Korea Institute for Defence Analyses told AFP the TV report was “like a novel,” saying Russia and China were dedicated to global efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation.
South Korea warned on Tuesday however that a resumption of the six-party talks may not be possible if Pyongyang is found to have been involved in the sinking of one of its warships last month.
China is the host of the talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programmes in return for diplomatic and economic gains. The forum also includes the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States
Yang Moo-Jin, professor of the University of North Korean Studies, also dismissed the YTN report as “totally implausible.”
“There is no reason for the North to carry out a third nuclear test at this time when the host China is making utmost efforts to resume the six-party talks,” Yang said.
North Korea has said it will not return to the nuclear talks programme until UN sanctions are lifted and the United States commits to holding talks on a formal peace treaty to end the 1950-53 Korean War.