(2nd LD) S. Korea on alert for N. Korea's additional provocations
(ATTN: UPDATES with minister's remarks in last 2 paras)
By Yi Won-ju
SEOUL, March 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's unification ministry expressed concerns Monday about the possibility of an accidental clash with North Korea along their border, as Pyongyang is ratcheting up tensions with a series of major missile tests.
In a report to the National Assembly committee on foreign affairs and unification, the ministry said it will stay alert to prevent the occurrence of "accidental clashes" in the inter-Korean border areas, including around the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas.
The North test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile last week, and speculation is rampant that it may be gearing up for a nuclear test.
"(We) will establish a firm posture to respond to all (possible) situations," the ministry said in the report for the parliamentary panel's plenary session.
During a press briefing earlier in the day, the ministry stressed that South Korea is closely monitoring North Korea's activities in cooperation with the United States amid signs of the secretive North repairing its nuclear testing site.
It urged Pyongyang to immediately cease all relevant activities and return to the negotiating table.
Informed sources here said earlier the North seems to be seeking to make a "shortcut" to a tunnel at its once-defunct nuclear testing site in Punggye-ri.
The move is seen as aimed at making speedy preparations for a seventh underground nuclear experiment.
Speaking to lawmakers at the meeting, Unification Minister Lee In-young said the government is keeping a close eye on the possibility that the North will carry out a nuclear test, linked with the miniaturization of a bomb or development of multiple warheads.
There is a likelihood as well that the North will take additional action, coupled with its claim of a satellite program, in April, he added.
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