South Korea has pulled back from claiming North Korea was ready to carry out another nuclear test after remarks from a senior government minister raised the tension in the the region even higher.
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told a parliamentary committee that "there is such an indication" of nuclear test preparations at Pyongyang's site in the country's north-east.
But a few hours later he insisted he had made a mistake. His comments were recorded on video, but he said he could not remember making them and did not mean to say them. A Unification Ministry official said that Mr Ryoo had intended to say that North Korea has long been ready to conduct a nuclear test.
His earlier comment prompted United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to North Korea not to carry out a new test, saying it would be a "provocative" act.
Either a nuclear test or a missile test would escalate tensions that have been rising for weeks on the Korean Peninsula, and could invite a new round of UN Security Council sanctions over North Korea's nuclear and rocket activity.
The US and South Korea have been raising their defence posture, and foreign diplomats were considering a warning from Pyongyang that their safety in North Korea could not be guaranteed beginning on Wednesday.
North Korea has unleashed a flurry of war threats and provocations over the UN sanctions and ongoing US-South Korean military drills, which the allies say are routine but Pyongyang says is a preparation for a northward invasion.
Meanwhile North Korea said it will recall 51,000 of its workers and suspend operations at a factory complex which is the last major symbol of co-operation with its southern rival .The Kaesong complex combines cheap North Korean labour and South Korean know-how and technology. It is the last remaining inter-Korean rapprochement projects from previous eras of co-operation.