Updated: 04/22/2014 10:34 | By Agence France-Presse

South Korea says North may be close to nuclear test

North Korea could well be preparing to carry out its fourth nuclear test, South Korea's Defence Ministry said Tuesday, citing a significant step up in activity at the North's main test site.


"Our military is currently detecting a lot of activity in and around the Punggye-ri nuclear test site," ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told a press briefing.

"We are thinking of possibilities that the North may stage a surprise nuclear test or just pretend to stage a nuclear test," Kim said, adding that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had set up a special task force in case Pyongyang goes ahead with an underground detonation.

US President Barack Obama is due to arrive in South Korea on Friday for a two-day visit, and there has been widespread speculation that the North may stage a provocation to coincide with the trip.

Kim stressed that North Korea's nuclear weapons programme was at a stage where it could conduct a test "at any moment" once the order was given by the leadership in Pyongyang.

North Korea has so far carried out three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

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