China yesterday warned its ally North Korea of unspecified "serious consequences" if it carries out its first nuclear weapons test -- Beijing's sharpest rebuke yet in response to Pyongyang's stated intentions.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun echoed the sentiment by reportedly ordering his government to send North Korea a "grave warning" about the ramifications and to draw up a "contingency plan" if the regional standoff worsened.
The growing international outcry against North Korea's threat to conduct an unprecedented nuclear test came as a newspaper with strong ties to the North said the regime was not bluffing.
Chinese Ambassador to the UN Wang Guangya (王光亞) said "no one is going to protect" North Korea, if it goes ahead with "bad behavior."
"I think if North Koreans do have the nuclear test, I think that they have to realize that they will face serious consequences," Wang said on Wednesday.
The comment was China's most forceful public response yet to its ally's announcement on Tuesday, and a break with Beijing's usual conciliatory strategy of avoiding warnings to or criticism of the North. Beijing, the North's main source of food and fuel aid, has appealed for restraint but hasn't said what it might do if Pyongyang detonates a bomb.
Meanwhile, the South Korean president met with his top security council. Roh ordered his government to step up diplomatic efforts to forestall a North Korean test and warn Pyongyang about repercussions, Yonhap news agency said, citing unidentified presidential staff.
The government was also to draw up a "contingency plan" if those efforts fail, the report said. Presidential officials were not immediately available for comment.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was working with the government of North Korea to try to dissuade it from testing.
"We are working with the leadership of North Korea to stop steps that could negatively impact the situation," Lavrov said at a news conference during a visit to Warsaw, Poland.
Earlier yesterday, a pro-North Korean newspaper based in Japan warned that Pyongyang was not bluffing with talk of the test.
"The nuclear test statement was not empty language, but announced on the premise of action," the Choson Sinbo said. "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 the North's official media but is considered one of its propaganda tools. Its articles are believed to reflect the country's position.
The chief US envoy to the stalled North Korean disarmament talks said on Wednesday that the US has directly warned North Korea not to test a nuclear weapon.
"We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea," US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said.
The US passed a message of "deep concern" to the North through diplomatic channels at the UN in New York, Hill said. He did not elaborate on the message's contents. He said the North Koreans had yet to respond.
"We are not going to accept a nuclear North Korea. If they think that by exploding a weapon, that somehow we will come to terms with it, we won't," Hill told reporters after an appearance at the Johns Hopkins University's school of international studies. "If they think that firing off a weapon will somehow make them a part of some sort of nuclear club, they should think again."