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Seoul Finds No Signs N. Korea Will Test Nuke

Korea Times | May 10, 2005

South Korea has neither detected any signs nor received any intelligence from the United States that North Korea is preparing to test an nuclear weapon soon, a top government official said Tuesday.

``We have been closely cooperating with the U.S., sharing relevant intelligence. But we haven't received such intelligence,'' the official said on condition of anonymity. ``So far, we don't think the reported moves in Kilju are directly linked to a possible nuclear test.''

His remarks flatly contradicted some news reports, including the New York Times article last week, which reported that the North might conduct its first nuclear test at a site near Kilju in North Hamgyong Province.

``I heard even three-fourths of all Americans do not believe such reports,'' he said, adding some speculative reports have been feeding unnecessary concerns among South Koreans.

The official cited the Kumchang-ni case of 1998, when North Korea leveraged international concern about its large underground facility in the town, some 40 kilometers northwest of the Yongbyon nuclear complex, to get a large amount of food from the U.S.

``Kilju has been a target place of our surveillance for several years as we detected some unusual activity like the construction of villas, tunneling and the frequenting trucks,'' he said. ``But we haven't found new symptoms so far that could be linked with a nuclear test.''

He went on to say that it is a good sign for the resumption of the six-party talks that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once again stated the U.S. recognizes North Korea as a sovereign state and doesn't plan to attack the communist nation.

``The U.S. recognizes that North Korea is sovereign. It's obvious. They're a member of the United Nations.'' she said in an interview with CNN television in Moscow, an apparent move to assuage North Korean fears and bring the reclusive state back to the negotiation table.

The Seoul official said South Korea, although frustrated at the North's boycott of further negotiations, still believes that ``it is not too late'' to resume the dialogue and negotiate what the international community and the North Koreans can get from each other.

``There is no change in the grand principle among participating nations that the nuclear issue should be resolved in a peaceful manner through dialogue within the context of the six-party talks,'' he stressed.

North Korea and the U.S. have held three rounds of negotiations along with China, Japan, Russia and South Korea since August 2003. But the North has refused further negotiations since last June, citing what it calls a ``hostile'' U.S. policy.

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