North Korea is in its final stages of digging a tunnel that can be used to launch a third nuclear test, according to top officials in South Korea. U.S. officials are concerned that this is another step by the North Koreans that could lead to a future attack on the U.S.
According to MSNBC, the construction site of the tunnel was found on recent satellite images near Punggye-ri, which is located in North Korea’s northeast region. As reported by USA Today, in 2006 and 2009, this same site participated in two previous nuclear tests.
MSNBC reports that the large pile of dirt blocking the new tunnel entrance leaves a “high probability” that North Korean is preparing for a nuclear attack. Previously in the 2006 and 2009 tests, the same piles of dirt were found before the nuclear bomb testing.
CNN reports that this news comes at a controversial time because North Korea released a statement last month that they would be launching a long-range rocket test. MSNBC said that the launch is to celebrate the 100th birthday anniversary of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung.
However, South Korean officials are skeptical because it would give an excuse for North Korean’s to conduct another nuclear test. North Korea’s capitol said that the anticipated missile launch will send a weather satellite into space, according to MSNBC. However, officials from both the United States and South Korea believe that instead it is a ballistic missile.
"If they do a missile launch and in few months a successful nuclear test, especially a uranium based nuclear device, it will send a very strong message to the world,” Andrei Lankov of Seoul's Kookmin University said to CNN. “The same message they always want to deliver -- we are here, we are dangerous, unpredictable and it's better to deal with us by giving us monetary and food concessions."
In a USA Today article, three countries are asking North Korea to consider canceling the rocket launch. CNN reports that North Korea promised the UN in 2005 that it would refrain from any missile or nuclear activity because the country needed economic aid.
"Once again this [rocket launch] shows ...they know how to manipulate the world,” Lankov said.
Those in the international community are worried that continued criticism about North Korea’s upcoming rocket launch, could cause the same problem that occurred back in 2009. According to USA Today, the continued arguing over North Korea’s launch caused North Korea to leave nuclear disarmament negotiations. The country then reacted by conducting their second nuclear test the following year.