A Chinese source has revealed that North Korea is “more or less ready” to conduct a nuclear test deep inside an abandoned coal mine. (Picture: Reuters)
But he said the hermit kingdom may hold off if it can win concessions from the US.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a device would be detonated about 6,562 feet inside a mine near the border with China in the north of the country.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had issued instructions that the test should “not excessively rock” Mount Paektu, a nearby peak many Koreans consider sacred.
“They are more or less ready,” the source said after speaking to North Korean officials. He did not give a timetable and his comments could not be independently confirmed.
South Korean newspapers reported that there were thousands of mine shafts that could be used for a test. Seoul and neighbouring countries were closely monitoring three or four sites.
The Hankook Ilbo newspaper said the most likely site was the administrative district of Gilju in North Hamkyung province.
This was the area mentioned in a report by a US TV network in August that an American intelligence agency had observed suspicious vehicle movements at a suspected nuclear test site.
The Chinese source said Pyongyang “may not necessarily test”, and would hold off if Beijing and other Asian powers could convince the US to lift sanctions and open dialogue.
New Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to visit China on Sunday and South Korea the next day for summits to repair ties frayed by feuds over their wartime past. But North Korea’s nuclear threat will grab a top spot on the agenda.