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Mass rally in North Korea as fears mount of new bomb test

Anne Penketh / London Independent | October 18 2006

North Korea staged a chilling show of "anti-imperialist" defiance last night amid warnings from the US and Japan that the isolated communist leadership could be preparing to stage a second nuclear test.

Thousands of performers were corralled into the capital, Pyongyang, to take part in a spectacular synchronised torchlight display, in scenes reminiscent of the days of the Third Reich.

The event was orchestrated to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Down With Imperialism Union, started by the "Great Leader" of North Korea, Kim Il Sung. Speaking at a commemorative meeting on Monday, a senior party leader, Kim Yong Nam, praised the "recent successful underground test", which he said would "contribute to preserving peace and stability on the peninsula".

But according to the US, the plutonium explosion produced a yield of less than one kiloton. Expectations mounted yesterday that Pyongyang would explode a second nuclear device because of the disappointing result from the first explosion on 9 October.

"We are almost certainly talking about a fizzle," said nuclear expert Paul Ingrams of the independent British American Security Information Council. The White House said that it would not be surprising if the leadership tried another nuclear test "to be provocative". A White House press secretary said: "I think it is reasonable to expect that the government of North Korea will do what it can to test the will, the determination and the unity of the United Nations."
The UN security council last Saturday ordered sanctions against North Korea in a unanimous vote approved by the hermit state's major regional ally China. The North Korean foreign ministry, in a belligerent statement, said that "the resolution cannot be construed otherwise than a declaration of a war" against the North.

The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is due in Japan today on a regional tour to shore up support for the sanctions.

British officials denied that similar measures were being envisaged against Iran, which faces the prospect of "incremental" sanctions over its nuclear programme.


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