Sun, Apr 24, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Report claims N Korea nuke test `imminent'

AFP AND AP , WASHINGTON AND JAKARTA

The US believes North Korea is planning to test a nuclear weapon and has asked China to intervene to block the test, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday on its Web site from South Korea.

Meanwhile, South Korea and North Korea agreed yesterday to resume talks that broke down last summer and to discuss the standoff over the North's suspected development of nuclear weapons, an Indonesian official said.

In an emergency communication sent on Friday, Washington warned Beijing that Pyongyang was possibly planning a test nuclear explosion, an unidentified US official told the Journal.

The Journal reported that the US told China it "believes the North Korean nuclear program is advanced enough that a test could come with little or no warning."

"It's clear the North Koreans want the world to think that they are moving quickly and rapidly toward a nuclear test," the official told the Journal.

The official said that US spy satellites have detected increased activities at North Korean sites where underground nuclear tests could be carried out.

The US State Department said it was "following closely all information about activities in North Korea" but declined specific comment on the reported planned nuclear test.

"Consistent with longstanding policy however we do not comment on reports about intelligence matters," department spokeswoman Darla Jordan told reporters.

The Journal quoted the official as saying that the true intent of the increased activities at North Korean sites where underground nuclear tests could be carried out was difficult to ascertain.

Another official told the newspaper that similar warnings were being sent to South Korea and Japan.

However, during a meeting between South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan and North Korea's No. 2 man, Kim Yong-nam on the sidelines of an Asian-African summit in Jakarta, Pyongyang said it would return to six-party talks aimed at getting North Korea to suspend its nuclear program, said Jacob Tobing, Indonesia's ambassador to South Korea.

"They agreed to resume the inter-Korean dialogue ... and they agreed to exchange views over the six-party talks," said Tobing, who was at the conference with the South Korean delegation.

``We know they both need this kind of meeting so we [Indonesia] offered to facilitate it. I'm very satisfied. At least one step has been taken but there is a lot work ahead,'' he said.

Earlier Kim Sang-soo, the information attache at the South Korean embassy in Jakarta, confirmed a meeting took place but refused to provide details.

Neither leader spoke to reporters as they left the talks, which lasted about half an hour.

The leaders agreed Friday on the need for the two countries to work together on territorial claims on a set of islets at the center of a dispute between South Korea and Japan, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.

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