| North Korea is confirmed to have finished preparations for a third nuclear test, an informed source on the North said Wednesday.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry publicly suggested conducting another test in an official statement denouncing the United Nations Security Council`s resolution on new sanctions on Pyongyang. This could further strain inter-Korean ties ahead of the launch of the Park Geun-hye administration of South Korea on Feb. 25.
The source said, "North Korea has dug tunnels for its third nuclear test at its test site in Punggye-ri, North Hamkyong Province, and completed sealing the tunnels with concrete after installing test equipment and connecting cables for observation."
Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006 and its second in May 2009. Wednesday`s announcement is the first confirmation of the Stalinist country`s bid for a third test.
The South Korean military, which has closely monitored the Punggye-ri test site, said the North is ready to conduct a nuclear test within several days. In particular, South Korean and U.S. intelligence say the test will be held in either of two horizontal tunnels dug halfway up Mount Mantap, which stands 2,200 meters above sea level. A senior military official in Seoul said U.S. and South Korean satellites are closely watching movement at the site.
The Security Council had earlier unanimously adopted Resolution 2087, which allows the U.N. to take strong action against North Korea if the latter commits additional provocations, including a nuclear test. The resolution was in response to Pyongyang`s Dec. 12 launch of a long-range missile. The council in the resolution proposed expanding previous sanctions, severing the North`s funding sources by strengthening the monitoring of large cash transactions and financial companies, and controlling imports and exports of all items that could be converted to military use.
The resolution also seeks to punish six organizations and four individuals in the North, including the (North) Korean Committee for Space Technology and officials in charge of Pyongyang`s two long-range rocket launches last year. A combined 17 North Korean organizations and nine individuals are now subject to the U.N. sanctions.
Just two hours after the resolution was adopted, the North Korean Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying Pyongyang "will take steps for physical counteraction to bolster military capabilities for self-defense," adding, "There can be talks for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the region in the future, but no talks for denuclearization of the peninsula."
The South Korean government and the ruling Saenuri Party welcomed the U.N.`s move, urging the North to abide by the resolution. "North Korea has to take note of the U.N. Security Council`s declaration that it will take significant action in case of additional provocations," South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said. The ruling party also urged North Korea to "immediately give up" its planned nuclear test.
The main opposition Democratic United Party said it "strongly opposes any move by North Korea that would cause additional risks," while stressing the importance of inter-Korean talks. The minor opposition United Progressive Party issued no official statement Wednesday.