U.S. warns North against nuke test

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U.S. warns North against nuke test

WASHINGTON - The United States yesterday warned against North Korea conducting another nuclear test to rally support from its military amid an unprecedented third-generation power transition in a communist state.

“Our message to North Korea has been clear and consistent,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters at the Foreign Press Club. “It needs to cease its provocative actions. I can think of nothing more provocative than the possibility of another nuclear test or another series of missile firings.”

Crowley was responding to reports that North Korea has been preparing for another nuclear test at a site where two nuclear bombs were detonated, one in 2006 and another last year.

South Korean officials said earlier in the day the movements of people and equipment at the site are not abnormal, and should be seen as part of maintenance activities.

Talk of another nuclear test comes as ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s youngest son and heir, Kim Jong-un, seeks support from the military, a possible motive for the torpedoing of the South Korean warship Cheonan.

The 27-year-old heir, believed to be behind the attack that killed 46 sailors, last month was given the rank of four-star general and named vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party. (The North denies sinking the Cheonan.)

The party post to control the 1.2 million-strong military is seen as a sure road to leadership of the communist North.

Crowley urged North Korea to “take steps to reduce tensions and cease its provocative behavior” and “fulfill the responsibilities under the 2005 joint statement.”

The 2005 six-party deal calls for the North’s nuclear dismantlement in return for massive economic aid, diplomatic recognition by Washington and Tokyo and the establishment of a peace regime to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

The talks have been deadlocked since early last year, when Pyongyang walked out over U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

Seoul and Washington have said they want the North to apologize for the sinking the Cheonan and show a commitment to denuclearization before returning to the nuclear talks. Recent statements by Seoul suggest it may be dropping the demand for an apology. “We all want to see talks resume,” Crowley said. “We don’t want to talk for just talks. There are things North Korea has to do that would convince us further dialogue with North Korea will be constructive. ”

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