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NKorea calls China, Russia unreliable; Seoul prepares response for possible nuke test

AP | August 27 2006

SEOUL -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has criticized close allies China and Russia as unreliable, a news report said, as South Korea mapped out countermeasures in preparation for a possible nuclear test by Pyongyang.

Kim's skepticism toward China and Russia was conveyed at a meeting in Pyongyang last month of the North's ambassadors to other countries shortly after the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution condemning the North's test-firing of seven missiles last month, Japan's Kyodo News agency reported Saturday.

Kim himself did not attend the hastily called July 18-22 meeting and senior officials were believed to have conveyed his views, Kyodo said.

The officials quoted Kim as saying that North Korea should "try to resolve all challenges by ourselves," according to Kyodo.

Kim told the ambassadors to help "implement" an order to strengthen its so-called deterrent power _ indicating it could test-fire more missiles and continue nuclear development, Kyodo reported from New York, quoting unnamed diplomatic officials.

There are growing concerns, bolstered by reports of suspicious activity, that Pyongyang may be planning to follow up its recent missile launches with a nuclear test. North Korea claims to have nuclear weapons but has not performed any known test.

"We can't say for sure that North Korea will not conduct a nuclear test as part of strengthening its self-defense," Choson Sinbo, a newspaper published in Japan by a pro-North Korean association linked to the Pyongyang regime, said Saturday.

In Seoul, meanwhile, a senior official at the Unification Ministry said Sunday that 272 manuals are in place to cope with a crisis erupting on the Korean Peninsula, including a potential nuclear test by the North. He declined to give further details, citing the sensitive nature of the issue.

"It is natural to put in place countermeasures," the official said on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

He said the manuals also dictate how to handle South Korea's tour program to North Korea's Diamond Mountain and a joint North-South economic complex in North Korea's border city of Kaesong if North Korea conduct's a nuclear test.

Seoul's move came amid reports that the communist regime would not rule out a nuclear test as long as it believes Washington is being hostile toward the North.

China, the North's closest ally and key oil provider, agreed in a meeting in Beijing last week with Song Min-soon, South Korea's presidential security adviser, to cooperate to prevent a possible nuclear test.

China has reduced "a significant amount" of its oil supplies to Pyongyang since the July 5 missile launches, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper said.

South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have tried in six-party talks to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program.

Talks have been stalled since November, when negotiators failed to make headway in implementing the North's agreement to drop its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

Pyongyang has since refused to attend the six-party talks until Washington stops blacklisting a bank where the North's regime held accounts, a restriction imposed over the alleged counterfeiting and money laundering.

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