US Envoy Warns North Korea Against Nuclear Test

Posted May 23rd, 2012 at 7:40 am (UTC-5)
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A senior U.S. diplomat is urging North Korea not to go ahead with a nuclear test, warning that such a move would be “highly provocative.”

Glyn Davies, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, spoke Wednesday after meeting with Chinese officials in Beijing, where he discussed a range of issues, including Pyongyang's nuclear program.

“I certainly hope that they don't go ahead with their nuclear test. That would be a highly provocative act and inappropriate miscalculation on their part.”

His comments come a day after North Korea threatened to push ahead with its nuclear program in response to what it calls “U.S. hostility.” But Pyongyang also said Tuesday it had no plans for a nuclear test. There is concern in the international community that the North might test a nuclear device following its failed attempt last month to send a satellite into space.

The April satellite launch was widely viewed as a long-range missile test, which is prohibited by the United Nations. The launch also raised fears that North Korea would conduct a third underground nuclear test, as it did following rocket launches in 2006 and 2009.

Recent satellite imagery suggests North Korea could be upgrading an older launch site to expand its missile program. The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University says the renovation of the Musudan-ri launch site in the country's northeast could indicate a desire to handle larger rockets, such as intercontinental missiles.

The institute says construction on the facility appears to have begun last summer, and that it would not likely be operational for several years at its current pace of construction.

During his two-day visit to Beijing, U.S. diplomat Davies said the U.S. and China reaffirmed commitments to prevent North Korea from taking further provocative actions. On Tuesday, Davies' Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, said China hopes six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program can soon resume.

“Both sides have agreed to make constructive efforts to maintain peace on the peninsula. We oppose any move from any parties that may derail or complicate the Korean peninsula situation, and we have also agreed to make joint efforts to cooperate with other sides, and actively create the conditions needed to restart the six-party talks.”

Washington has been urging China to continue applying diplomatic pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. China is North Korea's main ally and has been uncharacteristically critical of Pyongyang's actions in recent weeks.