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North Korea declares nuclear test.

By Mark Magnier and Bruce Wallace BEIJING--North Korea on Monday announced it had carried out a successful underground nuclear test, following through on a threat issued last week and defying repeated calls from around the world to stand down. In an announcement on the official Korean Central News Agency monitored in Seoul, the North Korean government in Pyongyang said the test was carried out without radioactive leakage. If confirmed, the test would make North Korea the eighth declared nuclear power, joining the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, India and Pakistan. Israel also is believed to possess nuclear weapons, although it has not officially declared so. It is unclear whether North Korea has the technical capabilities to mount a nuclear device atop a missile for delivery. Pyongyang has previously tested long-range missiles, including one that flew over Japan in 1998. "The nuclear test is a historic event that brought happiness to our military and people," the agency said. "The nuclear test will contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and surrounding region." The South Korean news agency Yonhap, citing defense officials, said the test occurred at 10:36 a.m. in Hwaderi, near the northeastern city of Kilju. The US Geological Survey reported on its Web site that it had detected a magnitude 4.2 seismic event on the peninsula at 10:37. A US official said early Monday morning that although the administration was not yet confirming the test, "we're not saying at this point that we doubt it, either." The White House was in contact with Chinese and South Korean officials to discuss a possible response, Reuters reported Monday. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun convened a meeting of officials Monday to discuss Seoul's response to the test. Roh was scheduled to meet visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in what had been planned as a fence-mending summit between the two nations. Japanese officials said they were unable to confirm the test independently. "I am aware of the declaration by North Korea that it has conducted a nuclear test," Abe told reporters traveling with him in Seoul, according to Japan's Kyodo News agency. "Japan is in contact with the United States and China for intelligence analysis ... and I will discuss with the South Korean side how to respond." Kyodo also quoted a Japanese defense official as saying that Japan had been informed of the detonation by Chinese military officials, who had reportedly been forewarned about the test. China's Foreign Ministry acknowledged the test in a statement on its Web site. North Korea, it said, "has ignored the widespread opposition of the international community and conducted a nuclear test brazenly." The Japanese government had threatened further economic sanctions if Pyongyang proceeded with a nuclear test. But Tokyo has little leverage with the North Koreans, having already curbed its limited trade and investment activity. "The prime minister's office has been working on options for additional sanctions over the past two or three days," Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso told reporters Monday. "So probably Japan would take those actions, but it would have to decide which options to take." Many observers in Tokyo and Seoul had expected North Korea to make good on its threats to test a nuclear device. They noted that North Korea's statement last week included pledges similar to those made by other nations before they conducted tests: no first use of nuclear weapons and nonproliferation. "That was the language of a government preparing to test," says Kim Tae-woo of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. "The optimists were saying Pyongyang was just threatening a test to get negotiating leverage, but they miss the point that North Korea wants to be a nuclear power state. They are not stupid. They know a nuclear test worsens their relations with China, with Russia, with South Korea. They know what losses they will suffer. "But they had an ambition to be a nuclear state, and they were prepared to do whatever was necessary to prove they would resist American pressure." The North Korean test also strikes a blow to Roh's policy of trying to engage rather than confront Kim Jong Il's government. Many observers had predicted a test would gravely damage Roh's already weakened government, providing ammunition to conservative critics who have long argued that the president's policy amounted to appeasement. As rumors spread last week of an imminent test, the UN Security Council on Friday unanimously urged North Korea to scrap plans for a nuclear test and return to six-party talks--involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, the United States and Russia--or face unspecified consequences. The statement said that a test would "bring universal condemnation by the international community". The US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said Friday that the United States was prepared to push for international economic sanctions. "If they do test it, it will be a very different world the day after," he said before the meeting. "There would be another nuclear power. This would be proof positive of North Korea having a weapon." Early Monday, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said: "If North Korea has conducted a nuclear test, it will only further isolate them from the international community." North Korea has previously timed its military exercises to coincide with significant dates: It test-fired missiles on July 4, despite international warnings. Monday was Workers' Party Day in North Korea, a national holiday.A* LATWP News ServiceNorth Korea declares nuclear test

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Oct 19, 2006
Words:921
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