North Korea slammed a Japanese TV station’s report on Thursday that claimed hundreds of people were crushed to death when tunnels collapsed at its unstable nuclear test site.
The statement comes as a South Korean spy agency renewed fears that the Hermit Kingdom is planning a missile test.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a statement that the Tuesday report by Japanese broadcaster Asahi TV was “false” and merely “misinformation,” Reuters reported. It accused the Japanese station of trying to “slander” the rogue regime’s nuclear weapons program.
The Japanese TV station reported on Tuesday that 200 are feared dead after an underground tunnel collapsed at the Punggye-ri test site on Oct. 10. The workers were in the tunnel during the initial cave-in, the station reported, citing a North Korean source. Another 100 people were crushed when the tunnels gave way on top of rescuers.
The station also blamed the country’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 for destabilizing the area and causing the tunnels to crumble. Despite North Korea’s rebuke of the report, experts have previously said the test site could be on the verge of collapse more than a month after the powerful blast. Pyongyang said it detonated a hydrogen bomb, calling it a “perfect success” that was reportedly 10 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb that was dropped over Hiroshima at the end of World War II.
Three small tremors have been detected from the area since the test triggered a 6.3-magnitude earthquake. Satellite images obtained by 38 North, which specializes in North Korea issues, showed a possible “collapsed chimney crater” at Mount Mantap, where the tests are reportedly being conducted underground.
On Thursday, the National Intelligence Service, South Korea’s spy agency, reported detecting “active movement” at a Pyongyang missile research facility that indicated Kim Jong Un’s regime was possibly planning a new missile test, according to Yonhap News Agency. Punggye-ri test site’s tunnel 3 was also reportedly ready to conduct another nuclear test “at any time,” the agency claimed.
“The North will carry out additional nuclear tests and continue to push for the development of miniaturized, diversified nuclear warheads,” the South Korean spy agency said.
President Trump is set to leave for his five-nation Asia tour on Friday, stopping in Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and Philippines — his first trip in the region since taking office. He is expected to stop in South Korea next Tuesday.
North Korea carried out its last intermediate-range missile test in September that flew over northern Japan before splashing into the Pacific Ocean. Officials feared another launch was imminent when North Korea celebrated two holidays — the anniversaries of its first nuclear test and the foundation of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea — in early October.
Celebrations remained mostly peaceful with no rocket or nuclear test.