By Kim Se-jeong
By Kim Se-jeong
Japan’s Sankei Shimbun reported Wednesday that North Korea may be making preparations for a possible third nuclear test. The newspaper published satellite imagery from the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear site, which it alleged showed work toward the test in progress.
The daily quoted an expert as saying, “Based on what’s been shown in the photos, it is clear that North Korea is preparing for a new experiment. Chances are high that something will happen in the next six months.”
The report followed comments by Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Charles Jack Pritchard, a former U.S. special envoy to North Korea, who visited Pyongyang earlier this month and said the regime appeared to be building a new experimental light-water reactor.
They added that the reactor, expected to produce 25 to 30 megawatts of electricity, will be finished by 2012.
“The concrete was poured, and power lines were erected, indicating the construction was in its early stages,” said Pritchard.
Keeping a wary watch, the South Korean government only said it would like to verify the news report.
North Korea watchers speculated that Pyongyang’s action was an attempt to get attention from the United States.
The six-party talks to eliminate nuclear weapons from the Korea Peninsula were halted last year after Pyongyang walked out of the negotiations to protest sanctions imposed on it. One year later, the regime has expressed its wish to return to the talks, calling them a pivotal tool to bring peace and stability to the peninsula.
South Korea and the U.S. are expressing reluctance to open discussions, demanding an official apology for the sinking of the frigate Cheonan in March this year, which they blame on North Korea.
The attack on the naval vessel, which cost the lives of 46 sailors, was concluded to be a torpedo attack by a North Korea submarine, something Pyongyang denies.
A South Korea-based nuclear scientist, who also requested anonymity, said the construction of the light-water reactor was only a bargaining chip to get the six-party talks back on track.
“North Korea probably cannot afford the costly project,” unless there’s a sponsor, the scientist said.