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White House seems to downplay North Korea weapon test

AFP | October 10 2006

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White House spokesman Tony Snow suggested Tuesday that North Korea's announcement that it carried out a nuclear weapon test was not necessarily as important as the international reaction it sparked.
Snow cast some doubt on whether North Korea really carried out such a test.

"A massive event?" Snow said in response to a question. "A big-deal event?"

"There was an event," Snow told a White House briefing.

When a reporter pointed out "You convened the Security Council," Snow added: "The earth moved, we can say that," referring to the tremors detected by sensors.

He also said the United States did not have confirmation of a nuclear weapon test.

"This may take some time. It's a complex undertaking, and it involves questions like, was there venting or was there not," Snow said.

"It was done in an underground facility, and no gases or other things escaped; it makes it much more difficult to monitor whether there are any radioactive traces and that kind of thing."

"There is a remote possibility that we'll never be able to determine fully," Snow said.

Earlier Monday, Snow told reporters "unfortunately I can't give you anything" about the nature of the operation or the strength of the test.

But he added: "It does not change our view that this is an act of provocation, nor does it change the view, more importantly, of our partners in the neighborhood, who view it much the same way."

While the UN Security Council mulled the various courses of action it can take in response to Pyongyang's announcement that it tested a nuclear weapon, Snow spoke of a "new sense of resolution" among US partners, particularly those closest in proximity to North Korea, such as China and South Korea.

"Everybody is on the same page in terms of talking about sanctions," Snow declared.

North Korea announced its first atomic bomb test on Monday, defying efforts to stop the secretive regime from joining the world's nuclear powers.

Pyongyang has repeatedly argued it needs nuclear weapons to deter any attack from the United States, which it fears will try to topple one of the last Communist regimes in the world.


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