I was skeptical when I heard the news last week, that "senior defense officials" now think North Korea has "put everything in place to conduct a [second nuclear] test without any notice or warning." After all, wasn't the first Nork test a total dud?But the wonks over at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies are warning us: believe the hype.
In early December 2006, intelligence sources indicated activities were underway at the Mount Mantap nuclear test site near the village of Punggye-ri in North Hamgyŏng Province. The activities were first disclosed by South Korean National Assemblyman Chŏng Hyŏng-gŭn of the Grand National Party (GNP or Hannaradang) on December 21. Chŏngs disclosure followed South Korean Defense Minister Kim Chang-sus December 15th admonition to 30 senior military commanders to be thoroughly prepared to counter the possibility of a second or third nuclear test by North Korea. According to National Assemblyman Chong, North Korea had prepared two tunnels under Mount Mantap, and the October 9, 2006 test was conducted in a tunnel on the eastern side of the mountain while recent activities have been at the western tunnel. According to a South Korean government source, the movement of people and vehicles has been detected at the site, and the activities are similar to those that preceded the first test.National Assemblyman Chong revealed that in December 2006 an unidentified object was moved to the western tunnel entrance and up to 15 people were observed moving about the area. Chong said that the North Koreans were seen constructing a temporary building 10 meters from the tunnel entrance and it is very likely the North Koreans were preparing the tunnel for a nuclear test. Chong also claimed that after the October 9th test in the eastern tunnel, the North Koreans removed the three temporary support buildings near that tunnel entrance and excavated and subsequently filled in a 95-meter long ditch between the buildings and the tunnel, which indicates they could be preparing the eastern tunnel for a future test as well.