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World leaders urge North Korea to abandon nuclear test plans

World leaders urge North Korea to abandon nuclear test plans

North Korea's announced intention to test a nuclear bomb prompted dismay in its region Wednesday, with Australia calling it offensive and South Korea saying it could cause a shift in its policy of engagement with its communist neighbor.
Pyongyang sparked global alarm Tuesday when it said it would conduct a nuclear test sometime in the future to bolster its self-defense, saying it was compelled to because of an "extreme threat of a nuclear war and sanctions and pressure" from the United States.
It is the first time the North publicly announced its intention to conduct a nuclear test, amid recent reports that it may be preparing one.
The United States, Japan and European nations expressed consternation Tuesday over the plans, with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying it "would be a very provocative act."
China, Russia, the United States, Japan and South Korea have all taken part in talks to persuade the North to freeze its nuclear development program, but that process has been stalled for nearly a year. Pyongyang has refused to resume the talks unless the U.S. withdraws financial sanctions imposed on the country, and in July drew international condemnation by test-firing seven missiles.
In Australia, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he was seeking a meeting with the North Korean ambassador to Australia Ambassador Chon Jae Hong on Wednesday over the Asian country's "deeply offensive" nuclear test plan.
Australia, a close security ally of the United States, is one of the few Western countries to have limited official ties with North Korea.
South Korea warned Wednesday that the North should take full responsibility for all consequences if it put into action its threat to conduct a nuclear test.
Asked to elaborate on what the consequences would be, Foreign Ministry spokesman Choo Kyu-ho told the Associated Press that a nuclear test "could bring about a shift" in South Korea's policy of engagement with Pyongyang. He didn't elaborate.
South Korea has consistently pursued dialogue with North Korea since their leaders first met in a historic summit in 2000. That approach has caused a rift with Washington that favors a harder line toward the communist regime. Seoul is one of the main aid providers to the impoverished North.
"We reaffirm that we won't tolerate North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons," the spokesman added.
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters said his country joined other nations in urging North Korea to reconsider its plans.
"If this threat is carried out, North Korea can expect a harsh response from the international community," Peters said in a statement.
Japan on Tuesday called the nuclear test plan a "threat to peace," and Foreign Minister Taro Aso warned that Japan's response would be "severe." Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the North would "face further decline" if it doesn't end its nuclear program.
Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed "deep concern" about North Korea's announcement and urged the country "to demonstrate restraint."
China _ North Korea's ally and chief benefactor _ had no immediate comment.
Singapore, Britain and France also urged the North to reconsider its plans. The European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said, "That is always bad news," but he declined to discuss the issue further, saying he had only just heard the reports about it.
The global outcry echoed the international reaction to a series of missile tests by Pyongyang in July, which prompted a U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning the North.
However, world opinion quickly became split over how far the reprimands should go. Japan and the U.S. argued for pressure through punitive sanctions, while South Korea and China called for further negotiations, saying more pressure would only exacerbate the issue.
Japan has reacted especially sternly to potential threats from North Korea. With the help of the U.S., Tokyo is bolstering its missile defense capabilities, and a U.S. air base in southern Japan will soon deploy advanced Patriot missiles designed to intercept tactical ballistic or cruise missiles.
Tokyo also slapped immediate sanctions on the North after the July tests, prompting accusations from Seoul and Beijing that Japan was overreacting.
Analysts say a worst-case scenario would be that a nuclear test by the North could prompt Japan to seek its own nuclear deterrent, raising tensions with China and South Korea, both of which suffered under Japanese colonial rule in the early 20th century.
Pyongyang says it has nuclear weapons, but it has not conducted any known test to prove its claim. South Korea's spy agency has said the North could test a nuclear bomb at any time.


Updated : 2021-04-23 14:47 GMT+08:00