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US: North Korea could test another nuclear device

Irish Examiner | January 9, 2007

The top US general on the Korean Peninsula said today he believes North Korea might conduct another nuclear test in the future.

“There is no reason to believe that at some time in the future, when it serves their purposes, that they won't test another one, so I suspect some day they will,” US Army Generak BB Bell, commander of US Forces Korea, said at a news conference in Seoul.

Bell said the communist country, which conducted its first nuclear test on October 9, is capable of testing another such device but he didn't elaborate on recent media reports that it was preparing to do so.

Concerns about North Korea were heightened abruptly last week in Asia after US broadcaster ABC News reported Pyongyang might be preparing for another test.

Citing unnamed US defence officials, the network said the moves were similar to steps taken before the October blast.

Top US and South Korean officials dismissed the speculation, saying there was no indication such a development was imminent.

In 2005, North Korea agreed to dismantle its nuclear programme in exchange for security guarantees and aid but no progress has since been made in implementing the accord.

The United States held talks with North Korea in December to try to work out initial steps towards the implementation of the breakthrough deal but they failed to produce any progress.

The talks, which also involve South Korea, China, Russia and Japan, ended in deadlock over the US financial restrictions imposed on North Korea over its alleged counterfeiting of US dollars and money-laundering.

The US and North Korea have provisionally agreed to hold the next talks on finances in the week starting on January 22, according to South Korea's foreign minister, Song Min-soon.

The previous talks, held on the sidelines of the main nuclear talks in Beijing, ended without any breakthrough.

Bell reaffirmed that the South Korea-US alliance remains strong to deter any possible aggression from North Korea.

About 29,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against a North Korean invasion, a legacy of the Korean War. The conflict ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war.

North Korea says it needs nuclear weapons for protection from a US attack.

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