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Monday, January 08, 2007
North Korea readying for another nuclear test?
Activity has been spotted near a suspected nuclear test site in North Korea but there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that Pyongyang is about to test another nuclear device, South Korean officials said on Friday.

ABC News had earlier quoted a United States Defence Department official as saying that North Korea appeared to have made preparations for a second nuclear test. Its first nuclear test, on October 9, 2006, had invited worldwide condemnation and punitive sanctions from the United Nations.

“We think they’ve put everything in place to conduct a nuclear test without any notice or warning,” ABC, the US television network, quoted the official as saying. A US official responded by saying that he had no reason to believe that North Korea was preparing for a test.

In fact, there is a lot of uncertainty within the US Administration onwhether Pyongyang had any intention to conduct another nuclear test.

The US monitors North Korea through its satellites and also spy planes that fly along the fringes of the communist state’s airspace to look out for any suspicious movements.

Another government official in Seoul, capital of South Korea, said vehicle and personnel movement had been spotted near the site of North Korea’s first test. There were no signs, he added, of cables being laid or electronic monitors being installed, which might indicate an imminent test.

The ABC report said though intelligence was inconclusive, the preparations now taking place were similar those taken by North Korea before its October 9, 2006, test. Many analysts opine that the first test was not fully successful.

The two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China had failed in their latest round of talks in Beijing last month to make any progress in suspending the North’s nuclear programmes in exchange for aid and pledges not to attack it.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry had revealed last week that North Korea has probably extracted over 50 kg (110 lb) of plutonium since 1994, with more than 30 kg obtained since 2003 while it was engaged in the six-country negotiations.

Meanwhile, North Korea has hailed its nuclear test as “an auspicious event for the nation” in editorials in the official media to welcome the New Year, adding it would further boost the country’s military strength.

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