The White House left open the possibility Tuesday that suspicious activity at North Korea's main nuclear test site could force a change in President Obama's weeklong tour of Asia, which includes a scheduled visit to South Korea.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the administration is watching closely reports that the regime of North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un could be preparing for a nuclear-weapons test as Mr. Obama prepares to arrive in South Korea on Friday.
Asked by a reporter whether the activity might prompt the White House to change the president’s travel schedule, Mr. Carney replied, “We’re monitoring events closely and mindful of Pyongyang’s propensity to take provocative actions, but I’m not going to speculate about that.”
South Korea said Tuesday that North Korea has stepped up activity at its main nuclear test site, possibly preparing to carry out a fourth underground test.
“We confirm that we have spotted several activities related to the nuclear test in Punggye-ri in North Korea,” the South Korean Defense Ministry said in a statement. North Korea’s most recent nuclear weapons test took place in February 2013.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry on Monday described Mr. Obama’s trip to South Korea as “a reactionary and dangerous one as it is aimed to escalate confrontation and bring dark clouds of a nuclear arms race to hang over this unstable region.”
Mr. Carney said North Korea “has a history of taking provocative actions, and we are always mindful of the possibility that such an action could be taken.”
“Depending on what it is and what they do, if they do anything, it would most likely be in violation of numerous commitments that [North Korea] is bound by,” Mr. Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. “But of course, that is something that they have, unfortunately, done many times.”
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