North Korea Prepping Nuclear Weapons Test
WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2007 — -- North Korea appears to have made preparations for another nuclear test, according to U.S. defense officials.
"We think they've put everything in place to conduct a test without any notice or warning," a senior U.S. defense official told ABC News.
The official cautions that the intelligence is inconclusive as to whether North Korea will actually go ahead with another test but said the preparations are similar to the steps taken by Pyongyang before it shocked the world by conducting its first nuclear test last Oct. 9.
Two other senior defense officials confirmed that recent intelligence suggested that the North Koreans appear to be ready to test a nuclear weapon again, but the intelligence community divides over whether another test is likely.
"That would surprise me," a senior intelligence official said when asked if North Korea is likely to soon conduct another test.
Another official had a different view, predicting North Korea would conduct a test sometime over the next two or three months.
In the weeks before the Oct. 9 test, U.S. spy satellites witnessed the unloading of large cables at a suspected test site in P'onggye, in northeastern North Korea. The more recent activity has been observed in the same area as the Oct. 9 test.
In October, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a resolution that imposed harsh sanctions against North Korea just six days after Kim Jong Il's regime declared that it conducted an underground nuclear test. The sanctions were designed to coerce North Korea into giving up its nuclear program.
Resolution 1718 specifically called for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons completely and irreversibly, as well as to put an end to its biological and chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction, and ballistic missile programs.
The United States and Japan had pushed for stronger sanctions but eventually watered down the resolution to appease China and Russia, which feared that tougher sanctions might only make the situation worse.
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