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World calls for N. Korea restraint

CNN | October 3 2006

A day after North Korea said it will conduct a nuclear test, world powers called for restraint.

The United Nations Security Council was due to discuss the issue later Wednesday amid growing fears over Pyongyang's military capabilities.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton has already urged members to engage in "preventive diplomacy" and "come up not just with a knee jerk reaction."

China, North Korea's closest political ally, warned its neighbor against exacerbating tensions already simmering over the hermetic Stalinist country's nuclear ambitions.

"We hope that the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea's -- the north's official name) will keep calm and restrained on the nuclear test issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement reported by Chinese state media.

Japan's new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, took a tougher stand, as did South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun.

"If North Korea were to conduct the nuclear test, it would be absolutely unacceptable," Abe said.

Roh called for a "cool-headed and stern" response to North Korea's threat, his office said. (Full story)

North Korea on Tuesday announced its plan to carry out a nuclear test, citing American belligerence. It did not give a time or location.

Although Pyongyang has previously claimed to possess nuclear weapons capabilities, such a test would be the first conclusive proof.

Announcing the nuclear test on state media, North Korea said its aim was peaceful.

"The field of scientific research of the DPRK will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed," it said. (Watch why North Korea may want to test a nuclear bomb -- 3:37)

Six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program have been stalled since November last year. Pyongyang wants bilateral engagement with the United States before the talks resume and it wants Washington to ease up on economic pressures.

The talks involve China, Japan, Koreas, Russia and the United States.

Tensions over the North's nuclear ambitions began to rise in late 2002 when Washington accused Pyongyang of running a clandestine atomic bomb program in violation of its pledge not to do so. Pyongyang denies the claim.

In mid-July, the North test fired missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, prompting the United Nations to pass Resolution 1695, condemning the tests and demanding it suspend further missile launches.

U.S. ally Australia, which has diplomatic relations with North Korea, called the North Korean ambassador in Canberra Wednesday to register its "grave concern" over the latest development.

France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said he thought it was important "that the council reacts and reacts swiftly and with a strong message."

"We also have to define a strategy and discuss how the council has to react, but first we must issue a statement," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged North Korea's leadership "to exercise utmost restraint," observe the current moratorium on nuclear testing, and return to the six-party talks, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Security Council's move
The Security Council has put off its response to North Korea's threatened test until Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton raised North Korea's announcement during a council meeting Tuesday. After a brief discussion, members decided to meet Wednesday morning to decide how to deal with it.

Bolton said he urged members to "develop a coherent strategy to convince them that it's not in their interest to engage in nuclear testing," AP reported.

Diplomats warned of escalating regional tensions and noted the council's strong resolution in July.

The resolution, rejected by Pyongyang, already states that North Korea should not engage in any further provocative acts, that it should rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and resume its participation in the six-party talks, Bolton noted.

"The real question is whether we have an approach that will be value-added in terms of dissuading the North Koreans from conducting this test which they've threatened this morning," he said.

"Obviously, the ballistic missiles, if made with nuclear weapons, would be a very grave threat to international peace and security," Bolton said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a North Korean nuclear test would be "a very provocative act" and the U.S. would have to assess its options if Pyongyang carries out its threat.

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