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Monday, October 30, 2006

US general predicts second NKorea nuclear test

Agence France-Presse

SEOUL: The head of US forces in South Korea on Monday predicted North Korea will stage a second nuclear test, as experts said the Stalinist regime's security threat should not overshadow "crimes against humanity" by its rulers.

"I can only surmise that since they've tested one, that some time in the future we're going to get another test of a nuclear device," General B.B. Bell said.

Referring to the North's nuclear and missile programmes, he added: "I think we can expect future tests as part of their programme to develop these kinds of very provocative weapons."

The first test on October 9 triggered worldwide shock and UN Security Council sanctions. But Bell told a press conference it had not changed the balance of power on the Korean peninsula.

The general, who would head the South's 650,000-strong military as well as the 29,500 US troops on the peninsula in case of war, warned the North to give "long and deliberate thought" to what he called the enormous capacity of US air and naval forces in the region.

If North Korea attacked the South "we would quickly and decisively defeat aggression," he said.

Despite what some arms experts see as the need for a second test to validate the results of the first, China said last week it had received assurances from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il that his country has no plans for a second test.

But Kim reportedly added that if others put pressure on Pyongyang, it may take unspecified "further measures."

Weekend news reports said suspicious activities had continued in the northeastern area where the first test was staged.

Military sources said there had been continuous activity at Punggyeri in Kilju county.

"However, it remains unclear whether these activities are related to a second nuclear test or North Koreans are just faking it," one source said.

Experts say any second test would attract much tougher sanctions.

A report prepared by DLA Piper LLP, a global legal firm, and the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea said the North's rights record should also prompt UN action.

The report, commissioned by former Czech president Vaclav Havel, ex-Norwegian prime minister Kjell Bondevik and US Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, said the rights issue should be treated on a parallel track with the security threat.

In a foreword, they said Kim Jong-Il and the North Korean government "are actively committing crimes against humanity."

It allowed as many as one million, and possibly many more, of its own people to die during the famine in the 1990s, they said, and 37 percent of children remain chronically malnourished.

Furthermore, North Korea imprisons more than 200,000 people in its modern-day gulag, and it is estimated that more than 400,000 have died in that system over 30 years, the trio said.

In written remarks to AFP, Bondevik said: "Nowhere else in the world today is the abuse of rights so comprehensive and institutionalised as it is in North Korea."

It was time for the UN Security Council to intervene in North Korea on the basis of the government's failure in its responsibility to protect its own people.

The report suggests that the council first adopt a non-punitive resolution under Chapter Six of the UN Charter, seeking UN and other international access to provide humanitarian aid to vulnerable groups and calling for the release of all political prisoners.

Should North Korea fail to comply, the council should consider adopting a binding resolution under Chapter Seven, which can authorise military action to enforce compliance.

Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's largest-circulation newspaper, said North Korea launched five short-range missiles during military exercises last week.

They presumably had ranges between 10 and 50 kilometers (six and 30 miles), it said, quoting an unnamed official.

The official said the launch seemed part of annual military training but it was rare for the North to fire off as many as five missiles.

Bell urged Pyongyang to end its drive for weapons and "attend to the needs of its people instead of the needs of its military."
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