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Nuke test not a bluff, report says, as N. Korea's Kim drops from sight

Nuke test not a bluff, report says, as N. Korea's Kim drops from sight

A newspaper that publishes North Korean propaganda warned Thursday that the communist nation's plan to test a nuclear weapon is not a bluff, as its leader Kim Jong Il reportedly dropped from public view.
Condemnation of Pyongyang's announced plans to detonate a nuclear device reached a fever pitch with Japan, China, Russia and South Korea urging restraint and the United States warning that it would not tolerate a nuclear North Korea.
South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that Kim had not been seen in public for 20 days, and noted that the enigmatic leader has similarly remained aloof ahead of other provocative acts by his government, such as the test-launching of ballistic missiles.
While Japan and South Korea have said there are no signs of an imminent nuclear 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. The official also noted that observers don't have a baseline for comparison, because North Korea has never performed a nuclear test.
A pro-North Korean newspaper based in Japan reported that plans for a test are not empty threats, but that there is still room for talk to head off a crisis.
"The nuclear test statement was announced on the premise of action," the Choson Sinbo reported out of the North Korean capital. "Carrying out a nuclear test is an inevitable conclusion ... under a condition where (the country) declared possession of nuclear weapons in February last year."
The paper, run by an association of North Korean residents in Japan, is not part of North Korea's official media, but is considered one of the country's propaganda tools and its articles are believed to reflect the country's position.
It hedged the warning, however, by saying there is still room for negotiation if Washington settles its "hostile relations" with Pyongyang.
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.
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.
Looming on the horizon are possible dates that North Korea may want to commemorate with such a 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 a long-range model believed capable of striking the United States, on July 4, America's Independence Day.
South Korea's Chosun Ilbo reported Thursday that Kim has been out of sight for 20 days and that he may be laying low for fear of U.S. military action or to monitor international repercussions of the country's announcement Tuesday.
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.
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 : 2020-12-04 11:02 GMT+08:00