North Korea has been conducting rare mass evacuation and blackout drills throughout the country.
According to the South Korean NKNews, several cities on the east coast of North Korea undertook the war-preparation drills, including blackout and evacuation scenarios, last week. The tests did not include Pyongyang. Such exercises have reportedly been rare in recent years.
“I have never heard of this type of training exercises before in North Korea, but am not surprised,” Chun In-bum, a recently retired three star lieutenant general from the South Korean army, told NKNews. “They must realise how serious the situation is.”
However, a North Korean defector told the news service that he remembered such drills from when he lived in Pyonyang “sometimes three times a year … especially at the time of military exercises of ROK and US army.”
The report notes North Korea may need to conduct at least one more ICBM test, this time on a long-range trajectory, to prove it has the technology to do so. This is likely to further inflame the North’s already volatile relationship with Seoul, Tokyo and Washington.
A new test may also have an additional effect: Nam Jae-cheol, South Korea’s chief meteorologist, has said that a nuclear test at North Korea’s mountainous testing site could trigger a leak of radioactive material.
As Pyongyang’s last nuclear test in early September appeared to have triggered several landslides, the new test could implode the hollow space of up to 100m in length in the bottom of Mount Mantap.
“There is a hollow space, which measures about 60 to 100 metres in length, at the bottom of Mount Mantap in the Punggye-ri site,” Nam Jae-cheol was quoted by South Korean news agency Yonhap as saying.
“Should another nuke test occur, there is the possibility [of a collapse],” he warned.
Separately, North Korea’s main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, has said the country has a sovereign right to launch satellites. The statement comes amid speculation that Pyongyang might soon launch a satellite – widely seen as a test of the country’s ballistic missile technology.