- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

1:27 p.m.

SEOUL — North Korea said today that it considered U.N. sanctions aimed at punishing the country for its nuclear test “a declaration of war,” as Japan and South Korea reported the communist nation might be preparing a second explosion.

The North broke two days of silence about the U.N. resolution, adopted after its Oct. 9 nuclear test, with a statement on the official state news agency as China warned Pyongyang against stoking tensions.

“The resolution cannot be construed otherwise than a declaration of a war” against the North, the statement said.

The chief U.S. nuclear envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said the North’s response was “not very helpful.”

“I think there is a fundamental misunderstanding about what the international community feels about its actions,” Mr. Hill said in Seoul after a meeting with his South Korean and Russian counterparts.

Mr. Hill said he could not confirm South Korean and Japanese reports that the North may be preparing another nuclear explosion but said a second test would force the international community “to respond very clearly.”

In its statement, North Korea said it would not be intimidated.

The communist nation “remained unfazed in any storm and stress in the past when it had no nuclear weapons,” the statement said. “It is quite nonsensical to expect [North Korea] to yield to the pressure and threat of someone at this time when it has become a nuclear weapons state.”

China has long been one of North Korea’s few allies, but relations have been frayed in recent months by Pyongyang’s missile tests and the nuclear explosion last week.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao warned Pyongyang against aggravating tensions, saying the North should help resolve the situation “through dialogue and consultation instead of taking any actions that may further escalate or worsen the situation.”

The United States pressed on with a round of diplomacy in Asia aimed at finding consensus on how to implement U.N. sanctions on the North. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expected to go to Japan tomorrow before traveling to South Korea and China.

Mr. Hill stressed that the international community should make the North pay a “high price” for its “reckless behavior.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said his government had “information” about another possible blast, and a senior South Korean official said there were signs that the North could be preparing a second test but emphasized that it was unlikely to happen immediately.

North Korea today marked the 80th anniversary of the Down-With-Imperialism Union — a political platform on which the communist state’s ruling party was later built — with an enormous gathering in a central square in Pyongyang and parades throughout the country.

In Pyongyang, hundreds of women in brightly colored costumes sang and held bunches of flowers, including some named after Kim Il-sung, the late father of current leader Kim Jong-il.

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