During a meeting with other South Korean officials, the official, Kim Jang-Soo, also said the notice to diplomats and other recent North Korean actions are an attempt to stoke security concerns and to force South Korea and the U.S. to offer a dialogue. Washington and Seoul want North Korea to resume the six-party nuclear talks — which also include China, Russia and Japan — that it abandoned in 2009.
The possibility of a fourth North Korean nuclear test has existed for some time. South Korea has long said the North prepared two tunnels for a nuclear test, but used only one Feb. 12.
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae generated confusion about South Korean intelligence on the issue Monday in a parliamentary session. When a lawmaker asked whether there was an indication of increased personnel and vehicles at the North's nuclear test site, Ryoo said "there is such an indication."
After Ryoo's initial comments, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said there are vehicle and personnel activities at the northeastern test site but they are seen as "usual" activities, not an "indication for a nuclear test." Kim said North Korea can conduct a nuclear test anytime if decides to do so.
The comments in a parliamentary session were recorded on video, but Ryoo later told lawmakers he couldn't remember making them and didn't mean to say them. He said he was "startled" by reports carrying his earlier comments.