South Korea today urged North Korea not to conduct a nuclear test, saying it would further isolate the communist regime, while countries launched new efforts to persuade the North to resume stalled disarmament talks.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said a nuclear test by North Korea would be a much more serious issue than its July missile tests and create a “threatening situation that will shake the foundation of the global non-proliferation system and will further isolate the North”.
Ban said a North Korean nuclear test was a possibility and that Seoul needed more specific information on the issue, adding that the South was sharing information with other countries and keeping a close watch on the North.
Concerns about a possible North Korean nuclear test have grown recently after a news report last week cited US officials as saying that potentially suspicious activity had been observed at a suspected underground nuclear test site.
South Korea’s military has said that it sent personnel to keep a round-the-clock watch at a seismic monitoring station to detect tremors that could indicate a nuclear explosion.
North Korea’s missile tests last month raised regional tensions and drew UN Security Council sanctions against the North.
North Korea has claimed it has nuclear weapons, but hasn’t performed any known test to confirm it has successfully manufactured an atomic bomb. However, many experts believe the North has enough radioactive material to build at least a half-dozen or more nuclear weapons.
Talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme have been deadlocked since November, when negotiators failed to make any headway in implementing a September agreement in which North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear programme in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
North Korea has since refused to attend six-nation talks on its nuclear programme until Washington stops blacklisting a bank where the communist regime held accounts over alleged counterfeiting and money laundering.
Trying to break the impasse, South Korean presidential security adviser Song Min-soon will make a two-day trip to China for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and other officials on “recent issues concerning North Korea’s missiles and nuclear program as well as other affairs in Northeast Asia”, according to the president’s office.
Japan’s top nuclear envoy, Kenichiro Sasae, also was to arrive in Seoul today for similar consultations with his South Korean counterpart, Chun Yung-woo, and other officials.
Washington has called on the North to return to the nuclear talks without conditions, saying the issue is unrelated to the financial restrictions. The talks involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the US.
Meanwhile, North Korea again condemned ongoing US-South Korea joint military drills, alleging they were a prelude to war, and claimed that it didn’t pose any threat to the rival South.