South Korea backtracks on missile statements, as North pulls workers

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South Korean officials backtracked Monday from claims they made about North Korea prepping for an underground nuclear test.

Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae had told lawmakers earlier in the day that there had been increased activity at Punggye-ri, the site of the North’s three previous nuclear tests, The Associated Press reported. Specifically, he said in answer to a lawmaker’s question that “there is such an indication,” but that he couldn’t go into details for national security reasons.

SEE ALSO: As North Korea rattles sabers, South Koreans yawn

But later Monday, the official said he was “startled” by his earlier comments and could not recall actually what he said. A Unification Ministry spokesman said the activities at the site detected by satellite imagery were normal and did not necessarily imply a test was imminent.

“Vehicles and personnel have showed movements near the southern tunnel at the Punggye-ri site, but they are seen as normal activities,” Kim Min-seok told Yonhap news agency.

The clarification comes as the North announced the withdrawal of its workers from a joint industrial zone it runs with the South — the Kaesong industrial complex, AP said.

The North, which has already locked out South Korean workers at the border, threatened Monday to close the facility altogether, as tensions between the two nations continues to escalate.

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About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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