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SKorea urges NKorea to renounce nuclear test plan

SKorea urges NKorea to renounce nuclear test plan

A top South Korean official said North Korea didn't appear ready to conduct a nuclear test anytime soon, but warned it could go ahead with a test explosion if the international talks on Pyongyang's weapons programs remain stalled.
Meanwhile, South Korea urged North Korea to renounce its plan to test a nuclear weapon, warning the communist state would face a "strong and united response" from the international community if it goes ahead.
North Korea said Tuesday for the first time that it would test a nuclear weapon, but also pledged not to launch a first-strike or allow the bomb technology to be spread outside the country.
Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok told lawmakers Wednesday there was "a high possibility" of such a test by the North if "efforts to resume the six-party talks fail," Yonhap news agency reported.
Six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program have been stalled since November last year as Pyongyang refuses to attend in anger over U.S. efforts to cut off the North's access to international banking over the country's alleged financial wrongdoing. The talks involve China, Japan, Koreas, Russia and the United States.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun called for a "cool-headed and stern" response to North Korea's threat of a nuclear test, his office said. But Roh also called for unspecified measures that would warn North Korea of the consequences of a nuclear test.
South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said the U.N. Security Council is expected to take stronger action against Pyongyang than the sanctions resolution the council adopted after the North's missile launches in July.
North Korea "will face a strong and united response from the international community" if it conducts a test, Yu told a regular news briefing. "I expect a higher level of response will be discussed at the U.N. Security Council," he said.
After the North's July 5 missile launches, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution banning all U.N. members from missile or missile-related dealings with the North.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon has spoken with his Chinese counterpart over the issue and plans conversations with diplomats in Japan, Russia and the U.S., Yu said.
Earlier in the day, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Choo Kyu-ho urged the North to cancel its plan to test a nuclear bomb and immediately return to six-party talks on its nuclear program without any conditions.
"We express grave concern and regret," said Choo, after the country held an emergency meeting of security ministers. "If North Korea pushes ahead with a nuclear test, North Korea should take full responsibility for all consequences."
Asked to elaborate on what the consequences would be, Choo said a North Korean nuclear test could bring about a "shift" in Seoul's engagement policy toward the North, but he also stressed that doesn't mean abandoning that policy altogether.
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 which favors a harder line toward the communist regime.
Seoul is one of the main aid providers to the impoverished North, but it suspended regular relief shipments after the July missile tests. However, the South later agreed to send emergency aid to help the North cope with the effects of massive floods that struck the country in mid-July.
North Korea said Tuesday that it would conduct a nuclear explosion to prove the country is a nuclear power. Pyongyang has since last year claimed it has atomic bombs, but hasn't performed any known test to verify that.
The North's announcement prompted South Korea to raise its security level and spurred strong condemnation from countries around the world. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a North Korean nuclear test would be "a very provocative act."
The North Korean nuclear crisis flared in late 2002 after Washington accused the North of running a clandestine atomic bomb program in violation of its pledge not to do so. Pyongyang denies the claim.
The two Koreas are still technically at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. But their relations warmed significantly after the 2000 summit.