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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

N. Korea 'to conduct nuclear test'

CNN) -- North Korea, citing American belligerence and pressure, said Tuesday it will conduct a nuclear test.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry issued the comment in a statement published by the Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA -- the communist country's official news agency.

"The field of scientific research of the DPRK (North Korea's official name) will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed," the statement said.

A date and time for the test was not issued.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that if North Korea proceeded with a nuclear test, "the international community would respond harshly."

"Any form of nuclear testing by North Korea would be unacceptable," Abe told reporters.

South Korean Foreign Minister Taro Aso said "we can't flatly rule out the possibility" of such a test since North Korea "in the past" said it would "do something" and actually has done it "a moment later."

It is the first time North Korea has made an official announcement that it is going to conduct nuclear tests. Previously, it said it had the right to conduct such tests.

"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 corresponding measure for defense," the Foreign Ministry said.

Six-party talks on the country's nuclear program have stalled, and North Korea test-fired missiles in July. There have been attempts to get the talks back on track.

North Korea wants bilateral talks with the United States before the six-party talks resume and it wants Washington to ease up on economic pressures.

"The DPRK's nuclear weapons will serve as reliable war deterrent for protecting the supreme interests of the state and the security of the Korean nation from the U.S. threat of aggression and averting a new war and firmly safeguarding peace and stability on the Korean peninsula under any circumstances."

At the same time, North Korea said it would back "nuclear non-proliferation as a responsible nuclear weapons state" and do all it can "to realize the denuclearization of the peninsula and give impetus to the world-wide nuclear disarmament and the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons."

"The ultimate goal of the DPRK is not a 'denuclearization" to be followed by its unilateral disarmament but one aimed at settling the hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. and removing the very source of all nuclear threats from the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity," the statement said.

The country said it "officially announced that it manufactured up-to-date nuclear weapons after going through transparent legitimate processes to cope with the U.S. escalated threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure. The already declared possession of nuclear weapons presupposes the nuclear test."

The country said it would "never use nuclear weapons first but strictly prohibit any threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear transfer."

CNN Seoul correspondent Sohn Jie-Ae said the extent of North Korea's nuclear capabilities was uncertain.

"It is mostly speculation. This is what North Korea appears to be seeking to verify to the outside world."
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