North Korea's Neighbors Denounce Nuclear Test
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
And we begin today with the news from North Korea. Pyongyang says it has conducted an underground nuclear test. It's not clear how big the device was or whether it was successful.
President Bush said North Korea defied the will of the international community and that the international community will respond. The condemnation has been swift and loud. Coming up, we'll hear about the international response and we'll talk with the chief American negotiator on North Korea, Christopher Hill.
We begin with NPR's Michael Sullivan, in Seoul, South Korea.
MICHAEL SULLIVAN: North Korea announced its intention to test a nuclear device last week as a response to what it called the threat of U.S. aggression. The U.S. and the U.N. warned of severe consequences if the North went ahead with the test. Even North Korea's longtime ally, China, urged Kim Jung Il's government to exercise restraint.
In a joint statement at a rare summit, China's President Hu Jintao and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday called the idea of a test unacceptable. Despite such warnings or perhaps in defiance of them North Korea went ahead, a development trumpeted on its state-run television.
(Soundbite of North Dorean television broadcast)
Unidentified Man: (Speaking foreign language)
SULLIVAN: The official statement, read triumphantly by the TV anchor, called the test an historic event, one that would contribute to defending peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the region as a whole.
That's a minority view, even among those who've long advocated a policy of engagement with Pyongyang. China today denounced the test as a brazen act and urged North Korea to avoid any action that would make things worse.
Speaking to reporters, South Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun implied his country might now have to re-think its so-called sunshine policy of trade, aid and tourism, a policy aimed at easing the North's isolation.
President ROH MOO-HYUN (South Korea): (Speaking foreign language)
SULLIVAN: Roh said that South Korea's previous policy of dialogue had been, in his words, compromised by the North's nuclear test and that South Korea would have to be more cautious in its future dealings with its neighbor.
But he also warned against any hasty action based on what he called quick judgments. Instead, he said Seoul would try to work with others in the region and beyond to find an appropriate response.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Seoul today for talks originally aimed at improving strained relations, was more blunt.
Prime Minister SHINZO ABE (Japan): (Speaking foreign language)
SULLIVAN: A North Korea with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles constitutes a grave threat to the world, Abe said. The development and possession of nuclear weapons by the North, he warned, would transform the security environment in Asia and, he said, we will be entering a new and dangerous nuclear age.
There is more than a hint of warning in such a statement. Japan views itself as a prime target of North Korean aggression and there is talk in Japan of rewriting its post-War pacifist constitution to allow a more robust approach towards its enemies. Analysts say Japan's highly advanced civilian nuclear program could produce a nuclear weapon within months.
South Korean forces, meanwhile, are on heightened alert tonight but officials say there are no signs of increased activity on the North Korean side.
Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Seoul.
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