Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 April 2014

S Korea backtracks on N-test claim

South Korean vehicles returning home from North Korea's Kaesong factory are escorted by the South Korean military (AP)

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.

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