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No sign of North Korea nuclear tests, says South Korea

CBC News | August 19 2006

South Korea is downplaying U.S. news reports that North Korea is getting ready to conduct underground tests of a nuclear bomb.

Quoting an unnamed senior U.S. military official, ABC News on Thursday reported suspicious vehicle movement at a suspected North Korean testing site.

The activity includes unrolling cable used to feed data from the test site to observation equipment, ABC said. The report said the White House was told last week.

Washington wouldn't confirm the report, but did say any North Korean nuclear test would be "extremely provocative."

Speaking Friday in Seoul, South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok told lawmakers there's no evidence a nuclear test is in the works.

"I haven't heard that we have confirmed clear evidence that North Korea is pursuing a nuclear test," he said. "We are closely monitoring North Korea's activities related to the nuclear program and missiles."

Japan's Defence Agency also said it hasn't received any information concerning possible tests.

Sabre-rattling?

Experts suggest the threat of nuclear tests is Pyongyang's way of forcing itself back into the international spotlight and gaining economic concessions in exchange for returning to six-party talks.

Talks involving North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. broke down in November.

A recent report from the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security suggested the reclusive communist state may have enough material to build 12 nuclear bombs.

Last year, American officials issued a warning that North Korea could be preparing for a nuclear test. The warning came as negotiators from the North met with South Korean officials for their first talks in a year.

A nuclear test would be seen as a much larger provocation than the missile tests North Korea carried out earlier this year.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il drew international condemnation in early July after conducting at least seven ballistic missile tests, including one long-range missile.

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning the missile tests and imposing weapons sanctions on the North, which rejected the measure.

There's been no known North Korean test of a nuclear weapon.

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