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North Korea was preparing to test a nuclear weapon in an abandoned coal mining factory, but was waiting to see if it could first garner additional concessions from the US government, Reuters reported Saturday morning.
The report was based on a Chinese source who had recently visited the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
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On Friday, the UN Security Council urged North Korea to cancel its planned nuclear test and return immediately to talks on scrapping its nuclear weapons program, saying that exploding such a device would threaten international peace and security.
A statement adopted unanimously by the council expressed "deep concern" over North Korea's announcement.
It was read at a formal meeting by the council president, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, and warned of unspecified council action if North Korea ignores international calls not to conduct a test.
Oshima indicated that the North could face sanctions or possible military action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter if it detonates a nuclear device. Chapter 7 outlines actions the council can take to deal with threats to international peace, and he stressed that the statement clearly says a nuclear test would constitute such a threat.
Japan, which would be in close proximity to any North Korean nuclear test, proposed the initial text. Oshima had pressed to have it adopted before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travels to Beijing on Sunday and Seoul on Monday with a message that the North should stop testing.
"It's good that the council has come up with a very clear, strongly worded message warning against a nuclear test" before the "very important" Japan-China summit meeting, Oshima said.
US Ambassador John Bolton said the US priority now is to stop a North Korean test.
"North Korea should understand how strongly the United States and many other council members feel that they should not test this nuclear device," Bolton said, "and that if they do test it, it would be a very different world the day after the test ... because there would be another nuclear power."
"This would be proof positive of North Korea having nuclear weapons. It would be an example of nuclear proliferation that we're very much concerned about," he said.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said threatening or conducting a nuclear test "would not help anybody including North Korea."
"This message is very clearly conveyed in the useful presidential statement which we today adopted," he said. "Let's hope that things will cool off and that everybody will return to six-party talks."
The statement urges the North not to carry out the test, saying it would not help the North address its concerns, especially strengthening its security.
It warns North Korea that a nuclear test would bring international condemnation, "jeopardize peace, stability and security in the region and beyond," and lead to further unspecified council action.
The council said it "deplores" the pursuit of nuclear weapons by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"The Security Council will be monitoring the situation closely," the statement says. "The Security Council stresses that a nuclear test, if carried out by the DPRK, would represent a clear threat to international peace and security and that should the DPRK ignore calls of the international community, the Security Council will act consistent with its responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations."
The statement also urges North Korea to return immediately to six-party talks on its nuclear program and work toward implementation of a September 2005 agreement in which the North pledged to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
North Korea has boycotted the six-nation talks for a year, angered by American financial restrictions imposed because of the North's alleged illegal activities such as money laundering and counterfeiting. The six-nation talks involved North and South Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the United States.
The council said it looks forward to the early resumption of the six-party talks "with a view to achieving the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner and to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in northeast Asia."
Both Russia and China have urged the United States to meet with the North Koreans.
Churkin said Friday that Russia believes bilateral contacts "could be useful in resolving the situation," but he said Bolton informed the council that there would be no North Korean-U.S. talks except in the margins of resumed six-party talks.
At closed-door consultations Friday, the council decided to issue the text as a presidential statement rather than a press statement. Presidential statements have greater weight because they become part of the council's official record. Press statements reflect the council's unanimous thinking but do not become part of its record.
North Korea said Tuesday it decided to act in the face of what it claimed was "the U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war," but gave no date for the test. There is speculation a test could come in the next few days.
Japan's vice foreign minister said the test could come as early as this weekend, the anniversary of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as head of the Korean Workers' Party in 1997.
Japan said it will push for a punitive U.N. resolution if North Korea does not heed the Security Council statement urging it to cancel plans to test a nuclear weapon.
"If North Korea conducts a nuclear weapons test despite the concerns expressed by international society, the Security Council must adopt a resolution outlining severely punitive measures," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released in Tokyo after the council meeting.
With tensions rising, Kim met hundreds of his top military commanders and urged them to bolster the nation's defenses, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported earlier Friday. Officers greeted him with rousing cheers of "Fight at the cost of our lives!"
North Korean state television showed still photos of the bouffant-haired leader waving to an assembled crowd of about 500 olive-suited officers in dress caps. Kim later posed for a group photo with his commanders in front of Pyongyang's sprawling mausoleum for his father and national founder, Kim Il Sung.
The meeting was the reclusive leader's first reported appearance in three weeks and the first since Tuesday, when his government shocked the world by announcing plans to test a nuclear device on its way to building an atomic arsenal.
It was unclear when the rally took place, or how many attended, but it could show that Kim is trying to polish his credentials with the military at a time when international pressure is mounting on Pyongyang.
The KCNA dispatch made no mention of a nuclear test.
Kim's last reported public activity was when KCNA reported on Sept. 15 that he visited the scenic Diamond Mountain near the border with South Korea.
The North claims to have nuclear weapons, but has not performed any known test to prove that. Six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions have been stalled for almost a year, and North Korea says it needs an atomic arsenal to deter a possible attack from the United States.
Washington has repeatedly said it has no intention of invading North Korea.
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi, currently in Washington, told the Japan's TV Asahi: "Based on the development so far, it would be best to view that a test is possible this weekend."
Japan stepped up monitoring of North Korea.
"In consideration of various possibilities, we are preparing for whatever may happen," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said.
Japan has two intelligence-gathering satellites and launched a third in September that can monitor the North's nuclear weapons and missile programs.
On Thursday, a U.S. military plane capable of detecting radiation took off from Okinawa in southern Japan and is thought to be monitoring a possible North Korean test, according to media reports.
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