North Korea threatened Wednesday to conduct a third nuclear test in a defiant act against a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution.
In response, South Korea is closely monitoring Pyongyang’s activities to confirm the most likely site for such a test, a military official said.
After the UNSC condemned its Dec. 12 long-range rocket launch, the North vowed to take “physical action to strengthen our self-defense military capabilities including nuclear deterrence.”
One military official said the North was likely to use one of two tunnels in Mt. Mantap, located at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Hamgyeong Province.
Another tunnel has been closed, the official said.
Hours earlier, the UNSC adopted Resolution No. 2087, which adds North Korean entities and individuals to a U.N. sanctions list and warns of “significant action,” if the Kim Jong-un regime carries out another rocket launch or nuclear test.
In a statement, the North’s foreign ministry rejected any resumption of multilateral denuclearization talks as well as previous agreements, blaming Washington.
The six-party talks, which comprise the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China, were last held in 2008.
“Due to the U.S.’s worsening policy of hostility toward North Korea, the six-party talks and the joint Sept. 19 statement were rendered null and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was put to an end,” said a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“There will be no more discussion over denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the future, although there will be talks for securing peace and security on the peninsula,” the statement said.
In a press briefing, a Ministry of Unification spokeswoman urged the North to “take concrete denuclearization steps and stop its provocative behavior.”
The transition team of President-elect Park Geun-hye urged the regime to show restraint. “We strongly urge North Korea not to take any measures that would additionally worsen the situation, including a third nuclear test,” spokesman Yoon Chang-jung said.
Analysts say the December launch, which Pyongyang claims was for scientific purposes, advanced the regime in its quest for long-range weapons with mass destruction capability.
The UNSC “demands that the (North) not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology,” the resolution says, adding further testing of its nuclear program would lead to “significant action” by the council.
Another Seoul official said “all possibilities are open” in regards to whether the North will carry out a nuclear test.
Analysts say a third test runs the risk of Pyongyang successfully achieving a significant yield or detonating a device using highly-enriched uranium, confirming that it has mastered some aspects of nuclear weapons technology.
The North, which dropped out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, wants to be seen as a nuclear state.
The U.N. measure comes at a tricky time as President-elect Park Geun-hye prepares to take power on Feb. 25. Park has yet to respond, though aides called the North’s statement a “serious issue” meriting discussion by the transition team.
Park has pledged to take a moderate line on Pyongyang, seeking to bolster defenses while reaching out for dialogue with Pyongyang. But she has also stressed that advancement of the North’s nuclear program is unacceptable.