SEOUL, Feb. 10 -- No immediate signs were detected yet that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) would stage its fourth nuclear test, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan- jin said Monday.
Kim made the remarks to lawmakers during the interpellation session at the parliamentary headquarters. However, the top military official said preparations for another nuclear test were completed in the DPRK's northeastern region of Punggye-ri, where the third nuclear test was conducted in February last year.
Kim said last November that the DPRK came to the level where nuclear weapons can be built with uranium.
James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, said in late January that the DPRK had restarted its mothballed reactor that can produce plutonium and expanded the size of uranium enrichment operation at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, located 90 km north of Pyongyang.
Touching on the rocket launch pad in Tongchang-ri in the DPRK's northwest, Kim said that the military was closely monitoring the region to identify whether Pyongyang would launch another long- range missiles, which the DPRK has claimed were rockets for working satellites.
The DPRK launched the three-stage, long-range rocket called Unha-3 into orbit in December 2012, two months before its third nuclear test.
The U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies said earlier this month that based on recent satellite imagery, Pyongyang expanded facilities in the Tongchang-ri satellite launch site to enable larger rockets than Unha-3 to be fired into space.
Minister Kim said that nuclear tests and long-range missile launches can be carried out at any time upon the decision of the DPRK leadership, noting that nuclear tests and missile launches were correlated as seen in past cases.