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N.Korea nuclear test may never be verified: US envoy

Reuters | October 11 2006

The rest of the world may never know whether North Korea actually carried out the nuclear test it said it conducted this week, the U.S. ambassador to Japan said on Wednesday.

Two days after Pyongyang said it detonated a nuclear device, U.S. and Japanese experts have been unable to determine whether tremors originating from the isolated state on Monday were in fact caused by a nuclear blast.

Only Russia has said it believes the blast was definitely nuclear.

"We're still in the process of trying to evaluate that, and as soon as we reach a determination on it we're going to share that with the rest of the world," Ambassador Thomas Schieffer told an group of business leaders in Tokyo.

"The truth of the matter is it could be some time before we are able to do that. Because the yield was so small, we may not be able to make a real determination at all," he said.

Seismologists have said a tremor recorded in the northern part of North Korea on Monday morning could be the result of a one-kiloton blast, and not necessarily a nuclear one.

But Schieffer echoed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in saying that United Nations moves to impose sanctions on North Korea should go ahead whether or not proof of the test was forthcoming.

"The North Koreans have said that they exploded a nuclear device, and I think policy has to go forward on the basis that that's what they did," he said.

Japan is also considering what further unilateral sanctions it can impose on Pyongyang, in addition to those it introduced after North Korea test-fired a barrage of missiles in July.

But Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Aso has expressed caution about imposing further sanctions without proof that the test took place.

Schieffer also said the United States had no evidence that a second nuclear test had taken place on Wednesday.

Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported earlier in the day that a fresh test appeared to have taken place, but governments of various countries said they had detected nothing to support this view.

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