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N. Korea calls nuclear test a success

HANS GREIMEL, Associated Press | October 11 2006

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea said Wednesday that increased U.S. pressure over the regime's reported nuclear test would be considered an act of war, and claimed that the test had been a success.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said the communist government could respond to U.S. pressure with "physical" measures.

"If the U.S. keeps pestering us and increases pressure, we will regard it as a declaration of war and will take a series of physical corresponding measures," the North's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. The statement, the first formal announcement from the North Korean government since KCNA reported the Monday test, didn't specify what those measures could be.

"We are ready for both dialogue and confrontation," the statement said.

Scientists and other governments have said Monday's underground test has yet to be confirmed, with some experts saying the blast was significantly smaller than even the first nuclear bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.

North Korea appeared to be trying to refute that Wednesday, saying in its statement that it "successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions."

"Even though we conducted the nuclear test because of the U.S., we still remain committed to realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and negotiations," the ministry added.

In another sign of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea's defense minister said that Seoul could enlarge its conventional arsenal to deal with a potentially nuclear-armed North Korea.

"If North Korea really has the (nuclear) capabilities, we will improve and enlarge the number of conventional weapons as long as it doesn't violate the principle of denuclearization," Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung told parliament.

"We will supplement (our ability) to conduct precision strikes against storage facilities and intercept delivery means, while also improving the system of having military units and individuals defend themselves," he said.

In rare direct criticism of the communist regime from Seoul, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said that the security threat cited by North Korea is exaggerated or nonexistent.

"North Korea says the reason it is pursuing nuclear (weapons) is for its security, but the security threat North Korea speaks of either does not exist in reality, or is very exaggerated," Roh said, according to Yonhap news agency.

Meanwhile, the top U.S. general in South Korea said that American forces are fully capable of deterring an attack from the North despite the communist nation's claim of a nuclear test.

"Be assured that the alliance has the forces necessary to deter aggression, and should deterrence fail, decisively defeat any North Korean attack against" South Korea, U.S. Army Gen. B.B. Bell said in a statement to troops. "U.S. forces have been well trained to confront nuclear, biological and chemical threats."

About 29,500 U.S. troops are deployed in the South, a remnant of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a cease-fire that has never been replaced by a peace treaty.

Bell said the seismic waves detected after the claimed test were still being analyzed and that it had not been yet determined if they indicated a successful nuclear test.

Nonetheless, he added, "While this test is a significant development, there is no cause for alarm within the command."

Under arrangements dating back to the Korean War, Bell would assume command of all allied forces on the Korean Peninsula in the event of a renewed conflict.

"We are executing daily operations and maintaining our readiness at appropriate levels," he said.

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