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N. Korean leader drops from sight as nuke standoff builds

N. Korean leader drops from sight as nuke standoff builds

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has dropped from public view amid global outcry over a possible atomic weapons test, a report said Thursday, as the United States warned it is "not going to live with" a nuclear North Korea.
Condemnation of North Korea's announced plans to detonate a nuclear device reached a fever pitch with Japan, China, Russia and South Korea also urging restraint.
While Japan and South Korea have said there are no signs of an imminent test, a U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is now seeing the movement of people and materials at one possible test site.
The assessment was tempered by the fact that similar activity was seen a couple months ago, when no test occurred. And the official also noted that observers don't have a baseline for comparison, because North Korea has never performed a nuclear test.
Overnight, Japan pressed the U.N. Security Council to adopt a statement urging the North to cancel the test and return immediately to six-nation talks aimed at persuading the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions for economic aid.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told reporters that members were divided on how to respond to the North. But the United States also warned the North not to go ahead.
"We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Wednesday.
Hill, the chief envoy to disarmament talks, said the United States has passed a message of "deep concern" through diplomatic channels at the United Nations but has yet to hear back from North Korea.
Looming on the horizon are possible dates that North Korea may want to commemorate with an unprecedented nuclear test, including Sunday's ninth anniversary of Kim's becoming secretary-general of the country's Workers Party of Korea, and the 61st anniversary of the party's founding two days later.
North Korea often times actions with special dates to maximize propaganda impact, as it did by launching a series of missile tests, including long-range model believed capable of striking the United States, on July 4, America's Independence Day.
Also fitting a pattern common during diplomatic flare-ups, North Korea's Kim has not appeared in public for about 20 days. The leader often drops out of sign when tensions heat up only to resurface when things calm down.
On Tuesday, North Korea rattled the world by announcing it would conduct an unprecedented nuclear test in a step toward building the atomic war chest it views as a necessary deterrent against any U.S. attack.
South Korea's Chosun Ilbo reported Thursday that Kim may be now laying low for fear of U.S. military action or to monitor possible international repercussions of the country's announcement Tuesday that it will test a nuclear weapon.
Kim dropped from sight for about a month in 1998 before North Korea test-fired a long-range missile that flew over Japan, the newspaper said.
In 2003, he wasn't reported to have ventured out for seven weeks after the country quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Kim disappeared for about a month after his country test-fired a series of missiles in July.
Ahead of the current spike in tension, the North's official Korean Central News Agency last reported on Kim's public activity on Sept. 15, saying he visited the scenic Diamond Mountain area near the border with South Korea. He made five previous appearances that month, including two visits to military units.
The country claims it has atomic weapons, but hasn't performed any known test to prove it. The United States has repeatedly denied any intention of invading North Korea.
Some experts believe the North has enough fissile material to build at least a half-dozen nuclear bombs, though there are doubts about whether it could deliver them accurately on a warhead.


Updated : 2021-04-12 12:46 GMT+08:00