S. Korea on High Alert Amid Nuclear Test Threat from N. Korea
On Monday, a key adviser at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae said successfully managing the North Korean nuclear situation will be the final task for the outgoing Lee Myung-bak administration.
With only two weeks left until the inauguration of President-elect Park Geun-hye, the aide said the government, and more specifically the office of the presidential security senior secretary, is on high alert and keeping tabs on developments in the North.
In retaliation of the UN Security Council's resolution and expanded sanctions for its recent rocket launch, Pyongyang has ratcheted up its nuclear threats, even warning of an important decision from leader Kim Jong-un over protecting the regime's sovereignty.
Based on assessments from satellite imagery and intelligence, Seoul and Washington believe Pyongyang is ready to push the button to test its nuclear capability, and is only waiting for its leadership to give the go-ahead.
While some speculate the big event could take place on days that hold political significance in either the North or the U.S. leading up to Park's inauguration this month, a high-ranking official in Seoul said IF a test occurs, there's a good chance it'll happen this week.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, who will preside over a debate at the United Nations this week, will meet with the UN Secretary-General and ambassadors from the U.S. and Russia to discuss possible countermeasures against a North Korean nuclear test.
And if Pyongyang carries out the test during his stay, which runs until the middle of the week, it's expected that Foreign Minister Kim will chair the Security Council's emergency meeting.
Choi You-sun, Arirang News.