North Korea lashed out at Japan on Thursday, dismissing as “misinformation” a report earlier this week that more than 200 people were feared dead after a tunnel collapse at the North’s main nuclear test site following the country’s sixth atomic test in early September.
Japan’s TV Asahi, citing unnamed sources in the isolated country, reported Tuesday that the accident at the Punggye-ri test site had killed scores around Sept. 10. The Japan Times could not independently confirm the report, but North Korea rarely acknowledges major accidents, and any incident related to its nuclear program would be especially taboo.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency claimed in a commentary Thursday that Japanese authorities had given their blessing to the report as part of a bid “to secure a pretext for sending the Japan ‘Self-Defense Forces’ into the Korean peninsula on their own initiative by building up the public opinion over [the] ‘nuclear threat’ from the DPRK.”
The commentary went on to urge “Japanese reactionaries” to “clearly understand the strategic position of the DPRK which has reached the highest stage, and face up to the situation and should refrain from going reckless by citing the DPRK as a pretext.”
It went on to threaten not only the Japanese government, but TV Asahi, as well.
“If catastrophic consequences beyond imagination are entailed by the shower of retaliatory fire, the TV Asahi will also be made to pay a dear price for its sordid act as it resorts to smear campaign.”
Experts have warned that explosions at the Punggye-ri site may have destabilized the area, and that it may not be usable for future tests. The nuclear-armed country’s sixth and most powerful atomic test was estimated by Tokyo to have had an explosive yield of 160 kilotons, more than 10 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb.
The United States, Japan and others have urged North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, but the demand has fallen on deaf ears in Pyongyang. Leader Kim Jong Un has vowed never to give up his arsenal, calling it a “treasured sword” meant to protect the country from aggression.
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