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Blix warns of nuclear race in Asia.

5/29/2009 7:49:01 PM

Hans Blix, the former head of the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq, has warned of a nuclear arms race in Asia, following a series of short-range missile launches by North Korea this week.

"If North Korea continues on this line it can provoke hardliners in Japan to say they need a nuclear weapon," Blix told Al Jazeera on Friday.

"If they were to go in that direction then the whole temperature in the far east would change and relations with China [seen as North Korea's ally] would be difficult."

North Korea on Friday fired another short-range missile off its east coast, the sixth such launch since it tested a nuclear weapon on Monday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency has reported.

'Export know-how'

Blix also warned that the "other major risk" is the possibility of North Korea exporting their knowledge of nuclear weapons to other countries.

"We have seen how they exported their missile capability, and there are suspicions that they were helping Syria to build a nuclear research reactor," he said.

Friday's reported test-fire followed a statement from North Korea's foreign ministry pledging to respond if the UN Security Council agreed any fresh sanctions over the tests, all in violation of a UN resolution.

"If the UN Security Council provokes us, our additional self-defence measures will be inevitable," the foreign ministry said.

"Any hostile acts by the UN Security Council will be tantamount to the demolition of the armistice," it said in a reference to the truce that ended the Korean War in 1953.

"Provoke tension"

The North has previously test-fired short-range missiles into the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, often during periods of tension in the region.

Blix said Pyongyang's main purpose behind this conduct was to demonstrate to their own population that there is a strong government.

"They have an active interest in provoking more tension around them," Blix said.

"If they can provoke the US and others to build more military actions around them they can tell the population - we need a strong military government, we need nuclear weapons and we need to remain your masters and you will have to sustain the misery in which you live."

The UN Security Council is still to respond to the tests, but on Thursday it circulated a draft resolution condemning North Korea and urging member states to enforce previously approved sanctions against Pyongyang. 2003 - 2009

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Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:May 29, 2009
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