Jeffrey LewisSecond NORK Nuclear Test?

ABC’s Jonathan Karl is quoting a “senior defense officials” claiming that North Korea has made preparations for a second nuclear test.

North Korea appears to have made preparations for another nuclear test, according to U.S. defense officials.

“We think they’ve put everything in place to conduct a test without any notice or warning,” a senior U.S. defense official tells ABC News.

The official cautions that the intelligence is inconclusive on whether North Korea will actually go ahead with another test, but said the preparations are similar to steps taken by Pyongyang before it shocked the world by conducting its first nuclear test on Oct. 9.

Two other senior defense officials confirm that recent intelligence suggests the North Koreans appears to be ready to test a nuclear weapon again …

Defense officials, huh? More on that in a moment.

But, first, my favorite Clinton-era Defense Department joke:

Q. What would you do if the North Koreans tested a nuclear weapon?

A. Tell them to test the other one.

That, of course, isn’t funny now that the Bush Administration has let these guys separate another 20-43 kilograms of plutonium—enough for several more nuclear weapons beyond the one, possibly two, that North Korea had in January 2001.

Reuter’s David Morgan asks an “intelligence official” (presumably someone not from DIA) about the ABC report and gets “WTF?”

“There’s no reason to believe that a test is imminent,” the U.S. official said. Asked if there were signs of preparation for such a test, he said: “There is not evidence to indicate that.”

Right. I don’t really know what to say, given how little information either story provides on which to make a judgment. I guess I would just note that the last time the IC split between defense and everybody else over an impending NORK nuclear test was May 2005—when there was not a test.

In case you forgot, here is the GoogleEarth Place Mark for the P’unggye-yok test site.

Paul has more on denials by South Korean officials over at TotalWonkerr