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South Korea Says World Will Punish North For New Provocations

The South Korean government on Friday renewed warnings to the North against carrying out any provocation such as an atomic detonation, saying it would be be punished with a "firm response," the Yonhap News Agency reported (see GSN, May 31).

"North Korea should realize that further provocations will be met with a firm response from the international community," South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said at a defense conference on the island of Jeju.

The North outraged world leaders when it launched a space rocket in mid-April. Even though the rocket flight was an embarrassing failure, the U.N. Security Council released a presidential statement condemning the activity and expanded the number of North Korean companies subject to U.N. sanctions. 

The Stalinist nation is perceived by some experts to have finished the technical preparations for a third nuclear weapons test though analysts are uncertain whether the North Korean leadership will give the command to proceed with an underground detonation.

Kim urged Pyongyang to "comply with its its international obligations including the U.N. Security Council resolutions [that bar North Korea from developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons], and return to dialogue with sincerity."

"We are facing security challenges from North Korea. Its nuclear and missile programs pose a grave threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, East Asia and beyond," Kim said.

"I hope the international community will remain united as one in urging North Korea to stop provocations, change its course to step out of isolation and open itself up to the world," the minister said (Yonhap News Agency I, June 1).

In Washington, the State Department on Wednesday affirmed the United States under no circumstances would acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear-armed nation, Yonhap reported.

"The United States has long maintained that we will never accept North Korea as a nuclear power," an unidentified department spokesman said.

The department was responding to new language in the North's updated constitution that states North Korea is a "nuclear-armed state." Analysts see the language as a sign Pyongyang does not intend to denuclearize and they speculate North Korean officials will use the language to bolster their arguments in the event of new international negotiations over the country's nuclear weapons program.

"The leadership of the D.P.R.K. has a very stark choice. They must take a hard look at their policies, stop provocations, put their people first -- ahead of their ambitions to be a nuclear power, and rejoin the international community," the department spokesman said (Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency II, May 30).

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