South Korea warns North against nuclear tests


SEOUL, South Korea – In a rare harsh tone, South Korea warned North Korea on Monday against conducting a nuclear test. Meanwhile, the communist state said it would consider any U.N. sanctions a “declaration of war.”

The South Korean warning came amid fears that North Korea is trying to harvest plutonium for more weapons after it apparently shut down a nuclear reactor and that it might be preparing for its first nuclear test.

Recent revelations have prompted U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to say that although Washington has no timeline for taking North Korea to the United Nations, it is willing to go to the Security Council. Such a move eventually could lead to economic sanctions against the North.

“Nuclear weapons can never guarantee North Korea’s security and will only bring about and worsen the isolation of its politics and economy,” South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said in Seoul in a speech at a forum, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Meanwhile, North Korea said Monday the United States should provide it with “conditions and justification” if it is interested in resumption of international disarmament talks, which also involve China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

“We can never return to the talks nor can we have any form of dealing with the United States unless the ill fame of an ‘outpost of tyranny’ is shaken off,” a spokesman said, referring to earlier comments by Rice.

Washington reportedly is exploring other options to try to stop North Korea from building up its alleged nuclear arsenal.

The New York Times reported Monday that the Bush administration is debating a plan to seek a U.N. resolution allowing countries to intercept shipments in and out of North Korea that may contain nuclear materials or components.

International experts believe North Korea may have at least two or three nuclear bombs.


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