A source with close ties to North Korea’s leadership told Reuters on Tuesday that the hard-line, communist state is ready for its third nuclear test.
“Soon. Preparations are almost complete,” the source told the news agency. Reuters said the same source could be considered reliable, having told the agency of the 2006 nuclear test just a few days ahead of time.
Since North Korea tried and failed to launch a long-range rocket earlier this month—widely believed by Western powers to be a disguised missile test—there has been speculation that Pyongyang would follow up with a nuclear test as had been the pattern in the past.
The news comes a day after North Korea, via state-run media, threatened to reduce targets in South Korea “to ashes” in several minutes. North Korea routinely criticizes South Korea, but this threat was seen as particularly dangerous.
Washington on Tuesday urged Pyongyang not to carry out any kind of military action against South Korea.
“We strongly suggest that the North Koreans refrain from engaging in any other—any more hostile or provocative actions,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said, according to a transcript.
The provocations, he added, “do nothing to help the North Korean people, many of whom are starving because of the predilection of the North Korean regime to spend the money it has on weapons systems rather than food and economic development.”
After the North launched its rocket several weeks ago, the United States announced that it was suspending delivering 240,000 tons of food aid to the impoverished country.
On April 15, a military parade in Pyongyang commemorating the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung displayed what were believed to be several intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
However, Markus Schiller and Robert H. Schmucker, analysts with Schmucker Technology in Germany, dismissed the missiles as a “nice dog and pony show,” South Korean-based Yonhap news agency reported.
“At first glance, the missile seems capable of covering a range of perhaps 10,000 kilometers. However, a closer look reveals that all of the presented missiles are mock-ups,” the two German experts wrote, adding, “It is impossible to find a real warhead separation plane on any of the observed ICBMs.”
“A real warhead’s casing has to resist thermal and structural loads of an atmospheric re-entry and is certainly not designed this way,” the two added.