N. Korea may try 2nd test

Activity seen near site where nuclear device detonated Oct. 9

October 18, 2006|By Greg Miller | Greg Miller,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence agencies have detected new activity at a site near the location where North Korea detonated a nuclear device last week, suggesting possible preparations for a second test, a U.S. intelligence official said yesterday.

The indications of a possible follow-up test, coinciding with similar reports from South Korea and Japan, prompted warnings from U.S. officials and from foreign capitals that a second nuclear explosion would heighten international tensions and deepen North Korea's isolation.

The White House did not rule out the possibility of a second test.

"Let me put it this way: The North Koreans have made no secret of their desire to be provocative," said Tony Snow, White House spokesman.

North Korea's Oct. 9 test was considered by analysts to be at least a partial failure because of its low explosive yield, less than the equivalent of 1,000 tons of dynamite, which is many times smaller than most nuclear blasts.

The U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing U.S. intelligence findings, said another try by Pyongyang was possible. "Nobody has discarded the possibility of another test," the official said.

At the same time, the official noted that activity is frequently seen at such sites, and that an imminent test is frequently preceded by relative calm as crews clear the test area.

The State Department said there was nothing to "indicate one way or the other" whether a second test was about to take place.

The activity, started a number of days ago, included ground preparation at one site and construction of buildings and other structures, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the subject involved intelligence gathering. He said that although the purpose of the structures is unclear, officials are concerned because North Korea has left open the possibility of another test.

A senior South Korean official told foreign journalists that despite signs of a possible second test, it was unlikely to happen immediately.

"We have yet to confirm any imminent signs of a second nuclear test," the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

In North Korea, the nation marked the 80th anniversary of the "Down-with-Imperialism Union" - a political platform on which the ruling party was built. North Koreans held parades across the country along with an enormous gathering at a central square in Pyongyang.

The regime slammed the U.N. measures with a stream of bellicosity in a Foreign Ministry statement released on the official Korean Central News Agency.

"The resolution cannot be construed otherwise than a declaration of a war" against the North, the statement said.

The North also said it "wants peace but is not afraid of war" and that it would "deal merciless blows" against anyone who violates its sovereignty.

Greg Miller writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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