- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

The Bush administration yesterday pressed the United Nations for a strong condemnation of North Korea’s threat to test a nuclear weapon, as Pyongyang’s Northeast Asian neighbors warned the North against exploding an atomic bomb.

John R. Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the U.N. Security Council was divided over how to deal with the North’s threat, but that the United States would push for a “broad strategic approach” to heading off a nuclear test that could destabilize the region.

“It’s going to be quite important for the [Security Council] to speak very firmly, very resolutely on this,” he said, “and not just in a knee-jerk reaction with another piece of paper.”

North Korea on Tuesday announced plans to conduct a nuclear test at an unnamed date, calling it a “self-defense measure” in the face of the “U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure.”

The closed regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il has boycotted regional talks hosted by China on its nuclear programs for nearly a year, and ignored warnings from Washington and neighboring capitals by conducting a provocative missile test in early July. The Security Council at the time imposed weapons-related sanctions.

China and South Korea yesterday issued calls for the North to refrain from a nuclear test. The statement by China’s foreign ministry, in a break with past practice, singled out North Korea by name in urging “restraint,” while a South Korean minister said a nuclear test by Pyongyang could cause Seoul to reconsider its policy of engagement with the North.

Japan, which sharply criticized the July missile tests, circulated a draft resolution at the Security Council yesterday. The measure warns North Korea that a nuclear test would jeopardize peace in the region and holds out the prospect of new action if North Korea goes ahead with the test.

Russia, also a participant in the stalled “six-party talks” over the North’s nuclear programs, said a nuclear test could present an ecological threat to its own territory.

In Washington, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia, Christopher R. Hill, said, “We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea, we are not going to accept it.”

Speaking at the U.S.-Korea Institute, part of Johns Hopkins University, Mr. Hill declined to specify what steps the United States might take to halt a weapons test.

New Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe embarks on a previously planned diplomatic tour of South Korea and China next week, a trip that could help coordinate a response to the North’s threat.

Officials said intelligence signs conflicted over whether Pyongyang was serious about a nuclear test.

Japanese press reports said that Japanese satellites had not seen any unusual activity at a site where a nuclear test might be conducted.

But a U.S. intelligence official, briefing reporters on background, said the United States is seeing the movement of people, materials and automobiles around one potential test site.

Mr. Bolton said he did not think Pyongyang was bluffing.

“We do think this is a serious threat,” he said. “We don’t think this is a diplomatic ploy or an attention-getting device.”

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