New tunnel beneath N. Korean mountain eyed as nuke test site

By Donald Kirk, Special to World
Friday, September 29, 2006

SEOUL — South Korea's National Intelligence Service reported that North Korean engineers have dug a tunnel 700 meters, about two-fifths of a mile, beneath the surface of Mount Mantap in North Hamkyong Province.

Word of the tunnel comes from Chung Hyung-Keun, a member of the National Assembly’s intelligence committee. Chung, who belongs to the conservative Grand National Party, revealed the tunnel’s existence after returning from a trip to Washington in which he advised against transferring wartime control of South Korean troops from U.S. to Korean command.

Chung said the tunnel resembles sites of underground tests in Nevada, India and Pakistan. The vertical shaft, near a horizontal tunnel, is about twice the necessary depth — a possible precaution against atmospheric fallout.

Richard Armitage, former U.S. deputy secretary of state, visiting Seoul, said North Korea may attempt a nuclear test before the end of the year — but may also want to negotiate a deal on nuclear weapons with the next U.S. administration.

Armitage predicted that Kim Jong-Il would “try to muddle through, notwithstanding the horror it brings to his own people” and was “likely to wait it out until the next administration."

North Koreans “are of the opinion that we are mired down in Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran, that we can’t be very innovative and flexible with them.” he said.

Chung revealed the tunnel just as Prime Minister Han Myeong-Sook was in Libya meeting with Moammar Khaddafy, who offered to mediate in efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. Libya three years ago gave up its own program and U.S. and European nations revived diplomatic relations with a promise of trade and aid.

Copyright © 2006 East West Services, Inc.

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