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(LEAD) Spy agency raises possibility of additional N. Korean nuke, missile tests

All Headlines 18:35 November 02, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS photo, more info in paras 7-10)

SEOUL, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's spy agency on Thursday raised the possibility of additional North Korean nuclear and missile tests, saying Pyongyang would continuously push to develop "miniaturized, diversified" warheads.

During a parliamentary audit, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) also said that Pyongyang could likely begin the work of reprocessing spent fuel rods at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon late this year.

"The North will carry out additional nuclear tests and continue to push for the development of miniaturized, diversified nuclear warheads," the NIS was quoted by lawmakers who attended the audit as saying.

The NIS said that there has been "active movement" of vehicles around the missile research facility in Pyongyang -- an indication that the reclusive regime could resume its provocations for the first time since the latest one in September.

The agency also said that Tunnel 3 at the Punggye-ri test site is ready for a nuclear test "at any time," while it would take a considerable amount of time to prepare Tunnel 4 for a new underground nuclear experiment.

National Intelligence Service chief Suh Hoon and other officials attend a parliamentary audit in southern Seoul on Nov. 2, 2017. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

The NIS, in addition, noted the possibility of damage at the nuclear test site, pointing to three aftershocks that occurred following the North's sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3.

The NIS also said it had detected signs of Pyongyang having attempted to hack into South Korea's financial institutions.

Amid international restrictions on its efforts to gain foreign currency, the hacking group under the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the North's core military spy agency, appears to be using online attacks for financial gain, the NIS said.

"We have detected circumstantial evidence that the North has persistently been trying to glean information needed for targeting and hacking into multiple financial institutions such as the virtual currency trading agency, banks and securities firms," the agency said.

"We anticipate that the North's hacking may focus on (extorting) virtual money that is hard to keep track of and may seek the destruction of the financial system, which could cause social confusion," it added.

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