* North "has readied third nuclear device test"
* Test could come "soon", source says
* Source predicted first test in 2006
(Adds detail, background)
By Benjamin Kang Lim
BEIJING, April 24 North Korea has almost
completed preparations for a third nuclear test and has the
capacity to carry it out "soon," a senior source with close ties
to Pyongyang and Beijing told Reuters.
"Soon. Preparations are almost complete," the source said
when asked whether North Korea was planning to undertake a
North Korea said last week it was ready to retaliate in the
face of international condemnation over this month's failed
rocket launch, increasing the likelihood the hermit state will
push ahead with a third nuclear test in defiance of U.N.
The source has correctly predicted events in the past,
telling Reuters about North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006
days before it took place.
This is the first time an official with knowledge of
Pyongyang's intentions has confirmed the test is set to happen.
South Korean newspapers have quoted officials in Seoul as
saying the test could take place as early as in two weeks.
The source did not specify whether the test would be a third
test using plutonium or whether Pyongyang would use highly
Many analysts expect that North Korea will for the first
time try a nuclear device using highly enriched uranium,
something it was long suspected of developing but which it only
publicly admitted to about two years ago.
Defence experts say that by successfully enriching uranium,
to make bombs of the type dropped on Hiroshima nearly 70 years
ago, the North would be able to significantly build it up stocks
of weapons-grade nuclear material.
It would also allow it more easily to manufacture a nuclear
warhead to mount on a long-range missile.
"North Korea may consider abandoning (the test) if the
United States agrees to a peace treaty," the source said,
reiterating a long-standing demand by Pyongyang for recognition
by Washington and a treaty to end the 1950-1953 Korean War,
which ended in a truce.
(Reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim; Writing by David Chance;
Editing by Nick Macfie)