Seoul expecting avalanche of NKorean provocations

By Alex Jensen

SEOUL (AA) – Seoul’s defense ministry warned Monday that North Korea could conduct avalanche of provocations around a major party congress starting later this week.

They could include a nuclear test and at least one medium-range ballistic missile launch, according to a ministry briefing.

Spokesperson Moon Sang-gyu was quoted by local news agency Yonhap as saying that the North might “conduct an additional nuclear test and fire off a [mid- or long-range] missile in a blitzkrieg manner around the party congress.”

South Korea conveyed a similar warning last week after determining that Pyongyang had completed preparations at the same site used for the North’s fourth ever nuclear test in January.

Rather than heeding strengthened United Nations sanctions and resolutions barring such tests, North Korea appears to be placing more of a priority on making a political statement during the Workers’ Party congress from this Friday.

The gathering will be the first of its kind since 1980, when dictator Kim Jong-un’s grandfather was in power.

Kim is set to represent multiple provinces at the congress, which is expected to serve as a policy platform for his regime going forward.

Seoul’s caution has only been fed by a series of North Korean ballistic missile tests this year alone — albeit including several failed launches last month.

With the latest available satellite imagery reportedly showing a quiet picture at the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, an earthquake is likely to be the first indication of a development.

“It would not be easy to detect signs of the nuke test in advance if the North detonates an atomic bomb in a surprise manner,” Seoul’s ministry spokesperson admitted Monday.