South Korea: No Indication of North Korean Nuclear Test
18 August 2006
South Korea's top official on relations with North Korea says he has seen no evidence that Pyongyang is preparing to test a nuclear device. The comments followed a U.S. news report that American intelligence officials suspect the North is planning an underground test.
Speaking before lawmakers in Seoul, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said Friday that the government is closely monitoring North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.
Lee says he has not heard that his government has confirmed, clear evidence that North Korea is pursuing a nuclear test.
Earlier, the American news program ABC News quoted anonymous U.S. officials who said recent activity spotted at a suspected nuclear test facility in North Korea has raised concerns that the country is planning an underground test. ABC reported that the activities included vehicle movements and the unloading of large spools of cable that could be used in nuclear tests.
North Korea is one of the world's most isolated countries and getting information about its defense operations is difficult at best. The United States relies heavily on satellite images to monitor its activities.
There have been similar reports in the past about North Korean nuclear test preparations, but the country has never detonated a nuclear explosion. Officials in the United States say North Korea has at least one nuclear bomb.
North Korea's neighbors and the U.S. have unsuccessfully lobbied Pyongyang to return to stalled six-party talks on nuclear disarmament. The last round was in September 2005.
Pyongyang refuses to do so until the United States lifts economic sanctions for alleged North Korean money laundering and counterfeiting. U.S. officials say the sanctions are a separate issue, not linked to the nuclear talks.
In early July, North Korea defied international warnings and test-fired seven missiles, drawing international condemnation and leading South Korea to suspend most aid to its impoverished neighbor.
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