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  North Korea Says It Will Stage Nuke Test

Associated Press | October 3, 2006

SEOUL, South Korea

North Korea said Tuesday it will conduct a nuclear test in the face of what it claimed was "the U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war," ratcheting up tensions amid international pressure to return to negotiations on its atomic program.

The United States said it would raise the latest statement in a U.N. Security Council meeting, and South Korea raised its security level.

"The government has taken measures to strengthen the security level in relation to the North Korea nuclear test, and has begun discussions with related countries," South Korea's presidential office said in a statement after an emergency meeting.

The statement from Pyongyang gave no precise date as to when a test might occur.

"The DPRK will in the future conduct a nuclear test in a condition where safety is firmly guaranteed," the North's Foreign Ministry said in a statement, using its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

In an early-morning interview with The Associated Press, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said the U.S. would bring up North Korea's statement for discussion Tuesday morning in a regular meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

"A nuclear test by North Korea would be extraordinarily serious," Bolton said. "The threat is serious enough that we're certainly going to take this action in the council this morning, by raising it."

Pyongyang has said it has nuclear weapons, but has not conducted any known test to prove its claim. South Korea's spy agency has said the North could test a nuclear bomb at any time.

"The U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure compel the DPRK to conduct a nuclear test, an essential process for bolstering nuclear deterrent, as a self-defense measure in response," said the statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

China, North Korea's neighbor, ally and chief benefactor, had no immediate comment.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso called the North's nuclear test plans "totally unforgivable," and said Japan would react "sternly" if the North conducted the tests, according to Kyodo News agency.

In Finland, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said such a test "is always bad news."

Multilateral talks on North Korea's nuclear program have been stalled for almost a year, with Pyongyang boycotting the six-nation talks in protest over U.S. financial restrictions imposed for its alleged illegal activity, including money laundering and counterfeiting.

Efforts to bring the North back to negotiations have taken on added urgency after the communist nation test-fired seven missiles in July, including one believed to be capable of reaching the United States.

Reports have also suggested the North might conduct a nuclear test, citing suspicious activity at a possible underground test site. Many experts believe the North has enough radioactive material to build at least a half-dozen or more nuclear weapons.

The North said Tuesday its ultimate goal is "to settle hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. and to remove the very source of all nuclear threats from the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity," accusing the U.S. of posing a nuclear threat in the region.

The North, however, said it will "never use nuclear weapons first and strictly prohibit any threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear transfer."

Charles Kartman, who was the lead negotiator with North Korea under the Clinton administration, said last week that North Korea had few other options than saber-rattling.

"If they feel they are not getting interaction with us, they tend to do things to get our attention. And the tools that they have are all bad ones," he said. "The missiles, the nuclear program, the military."


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