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Friday, January 05, 2007

U.S. and Japan Warn North Korea Against 2nd Test - New York Times

U.S. and Japan Warn North Korea Against 2nd Test - New York Times
January 5, 2007

U.S. and Japan Warn North Korea Against 2nd Test

The United States and Japan warned North Korea today against conducting a second nuclear test, as South Korean officials reported suspicious activities at the North’s test site but no evidence of preparations for a nuclear blast.

“There have been unidentified activities detected at the North’s suspected nuclear test site, but as of now, we have no specific indications directly linked to an additional test,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official in Seoul, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

A South Korean news agency quoted an unnamed government official who said that movement by vehicles and people had been spotted at Punggye, the remote test site in northeastern North Korea where the Communist regime conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said that a second test would damage the prospects for the six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear program that were revived by China last month.

“If you did have another test of a nuclear device, that would have severe consequences for the viability of that political-diplomatic process,” Mr. McCormack told reporters, according to Reuters. “Why would they take such a step at this time?”

The recent round of talks ended without resolution, as the United States refused North Korea’s demand that it discuss ending a crackdown on the Pyongyang regime’s international banking activities a part of the nuclear negotiations.

Mr. McCormack said that he expected the talks, which include Russia, Japan, China, the United States and North and South Korea, to resume this month.

In Tokyo, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry played down the reports of test preparations, but said that the Japanese government would press for tougher sanctions against North Korea if another test occurred, news services reported.

“We think it is essential that North Korea should stop further nuclear testing and they should abandon all their nuclear programs,” said the spokesman, Nori Shikata. “If they conduct another nuclear test, then the international community, including Japan, will take additional measures.”

Japan and the United States took the toughest diplomatic line after the October test when the United Nations Security Council discussed and ultimately imposed sanctions on North Korea.

China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, reacted angrily to news of the test. Until then, it had resisted any call to impose sanctions against the Pyongyang regime. China eventually voted to adopt punitive measures proposed by the United States and Japan, although it insisted on changes that made some of the toughest provisions optional, like a call for inspection of ships at sea on their way to or from North Korea.

Since then, China has worked to get Pyongyang and Washington back to the bargaining table, where it hopes for a diplomatic solution.

The force of the Oct. 9 blast was far less than that usually produced by an atomic bomb, leading some officials and nuclear experts to speculate that North Korea may want to conduct a second test to improve its technology.

China’s position could make a new round of nuclear testing risky for North Korea, experts said, leading some to conclude that the latest rumblings about test preparations could be more threat than real.

“If it conducts a second test, North Korea will have more to lose than to gain,” said Baek Seung Joo, a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul. “The North is using its activities at the test site as a negotiating card. It’s a message to the United States that it can worsen the situation if Washington doesn’t make concessions and the six-party talks break down.”

John O’Neil reported from New York and Choe Sang-Hun from Seoul, South Korea.

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