North Korea 298 88.
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South Korea's military was reportedly readying for nuclear conflict Wednesday as rival North Korea warned that an international push for tighter sanctions on Pyongyang over its atomic weapons test would be an act of war.
A North Korean official warned that the isolated, communist nation would regard full-scale sanctions against as a call to war, Yonhap news agency reported.
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"Sanctions are nonsense. If full-scale sanctions take place, we will regard it as a declaration of war," the official based in Beijing, who wasn't identified, told Yonhap.
"Why is the UN, which didn't raise any problem when India received nuclear technology from the US, trying to sanction us?" the North Korean official said. "The more pressure we get, the stronger our response will be."
The harsh words came after North Korea shocked the world on Monday by claiming to have conducted its first nuclear bomb test, triggering a US-backed campaign to have the UN Security Council sanction the country.
Still, South Korea's military was checking its readiness for nuclear war, Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday. The Joint Chiefs of Staff reported to Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung the need for verifying and improving troops' capabilities, it said.
The Joint Chiefs raised the need for introducing state-of-the-art weapons capable of destroying the means of delivering nuclear weapons, the report said.
Yoon also instructed the military last week to start improving the country's operational plans and other military strategies after the North threatened the test, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unidentified government official.
The Defense Ministry and the Joint Chiefs of Staff declined to confirm the report. The reported move could be expected in line with standard military practice across the world, where officers always prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Worldwide alarm was heightened earlier Wednesday by reports of a possible second nuclear test. Some say the North Korean regime may conduct more tests amid suspicion the first, relatively small explosion might have partially failed.
Japanese news reports said the government there detected tremors that led it to suspect North Korea had conducted another nuclear test. A Foreign Ministry official confirmed the government was looking into a possible second blast.
US and South Korean geological monitors said they had not detected any new seismic activity in communist North Korea, and Japan's prime minister said he had no confirmation of a second blast - a position seconded by the White House.
In Washington, White House spokesman Blair Jones said signs pointed to an earthquake, not another underground nuclear detonation.
The regional anxiety was reflected Wednesday when Australia's foreign minister said he was concerned about new information suggesting another test could come.
"We have very real concerns that they may conduct another nuclear test and that they may do so very soon," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said, without elaborating.
While international sanctions were being considered against Pyongyang, South Korea said Wednesday that an emergency aid shipment to the rival North was suspended because of the test, though no decision had been made on permanently halting them.
Overnight at the United Nations, the North Korean nuclear crisis settled into a diplomatic debate, with China agreeing to punishment but not severe sanctions backed by the US, which it said would be too crushing for its impoverished communist ally.