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China denies reports of N. Korea apology

ALEXA OLESEN, Associated Press | October 23 2006

BEIJING - North Korea is not planning a second nuclear test and is willing to return to six-party talks under certain conditions but warned that it would take action if it feels pressured, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan was told during meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and other officials in Pyongyang last week that the North has no plans currently to carry out a second nuclear test, said Liu Jianchao.

"But if it faces pressure, North Korea reserves the right to take further actions," Liu said, citing Tang.

Despite the apparently conciliatory tone of the meeting, Liu said that Kim did not apologize for his regime's nuclear test, as some South Korean media had reported.

"These reports are certainly not accurate," Liu said. "We haven't heard any information that Kim Jong Il apologized for the test."

Earlier this month, U.S. media reported that Pyongyang may be preparing for another, citing suspicious activity at a suspected test site in the North's northeast.

But on Tuesday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that the U.S. military have detected no signs of preparations for a second atomic test.

U.S. military officials gave that intelligence assessment to their South Korean counterparts during annual defense talks in Washington last week, Yonhap said, citing unidentified defense officials.

Officials at the Defense Ministry were not immediately available for comment.

Also Tuesday, Ban Ki-moon, the next United Nations secretary-general and South Korea's foreign minister, said Seoul fully backs the U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea as punishment for the nuclear test.

Ban said he plans to use his new position as U.N. chief, which he assumes starting next year, to seek a peaceful resolution of nuclear standoff.

South Korea has yet to outline any specific action it plans to take to enforce the sanctions. The U.S. has urged the South to join an anti-proliferation initiative, and to take steps for more accountability in joint economic projects with the North.

Ban, who was headed to Beijing for talks with Tang and other Chinese officials on Friday, said Seoul was still reviewing its policies "to bring them closer in line" with the U.N. measures.


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