N. Korea Says U.N. Sanctions Are 'Declaration of War'

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By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 17, 2006; 6:08 PM

North Korea declared today that U.N. sanctions for its nuclear test last week amount to "a declaration of war" and vowed to retaliate if necessary, but the reclusive communist state made no comment on reported preparations to carry out a second test.

Reacting to an Oct. 14 U.N. Security Council resolution that imposed sanctions ranging from an arms embargo to a freeze on leaders' assets, the North Korean Foreign Ministry threatened "merciless blows through strong actions" against any state that violated its sovereignty under the guise of implementing the sanctions.

The resolution, approved unanimously in response to North Korean's Oct. 9 underground nuclear test northeast of Pyongyang, also empowers states to stop and inspect North Korean and other ships suspected of carrying banned items, which include large-scale weapons systems, materials and equipment related to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, ballistic missiles and luxury goods.

The resolution also demanded that North Korea, which calls itself the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK, "not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile."

Nevertheless, U.S. spy satellites have detected a flurry of activity around a couple of suspected North Korean nuclear test sites, and the White House said it would not be surprised if Pyongyang flouted international warnings not to detonate another device.

Intelligence officials said today that the activity spotted by satellites near the site of the Oct. 9 test has heightened concerns about the possibility of a second North Korean nuclear test, Washington Post staff writer Glenn Kessler reported. The satellites have picked up movements of vehicles, equipment and personnel to an area near the site of the first test, although it is difficult for intelligence officials to interpret the images. One official cautioned that satellite imagery is "not always the clearest window into what may really be happening on the ground."

North Korea's first test produced a small yield of less than a kiloton, leading most U.S. analysts to presume that the test may not have been completely successful. If the low yield resulted from only a fraction of the device's plutonium imploding, then the North Koreans may feel they need to test again. Another intelligence official suggested that a second test may be conducted for political, rather than technical, reasons. A kiloton is equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT.

Asked about the prospect of a second North Korean test, White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters today, "The North Koreans have made no secret of their desire to be provocative. The first test, while nuclear, did have a low yield and perhaps it would not be unreasonable to expect that the North Koreans would like to try to [do] something again."

He said he would not discuss "any particular matters of intelligence," but that North Korea could be expected to "do what it can to test the will, the determination and the unity of the United Nations."

Snow said later that the consequences of a second test would be "the further isolation of North Korea." The United States and China would work even more closely together, he said.

He spoke as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed to Japan on the first leg of a four-nation tour that also includes stops in South Korea, Russia and China to rally support for strict enforcement of the U.N. sanctions.

Snow dismissed a question about the U.S. view of North Korean's leader Kim Jong Il's mental state, saying, "we're just not going to get involved in the business of trying to do a psychological evaluation of the dear leader. What we do is we take a look at his actions, and we'll respond with actions which we think are going to be louder than words or psychological profiles."


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