South Korean Official: The North is Preparing for Another Nuclear Test

Move could be a bid to draw attention away from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's party purge

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Jacky Chen / Reuters

A North Korean soldier aims his rifle at a Chinese tourist boat as he and other soldiers stand guard on the banks of Yalu River, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, December 16, 2013.

A member of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee claimed Tuesday that North Korea might be preparing to conduct a fourth nuclear test and another missile launch, the Yonhap news agency reports.

Cho Won-jin said that a nuclear test could be used to draw attention away from the high-profile execution last week of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Taek.

The fresh allegations follow provocations from the North Koreans on Monday, when hundreds of propaganda leaflets were dropped into South Korea threatening the “annihilation” of the South Korean 6th Marine Brigade on Baeknyeong Island.

Baeknyeong is South Korea’s northernmost island. In 2010, a South Korean navy ship, the Cheonan, was torpedoed in waters off the island by North Korea, killing 46 crew.