World

Japanese tremors raise fears of second North Korean test

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that he had no information to confirm North Korea had conducted a second nuclear test.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that he had no information to confirm North Korea had conducted a second nuclear test.

His statement came after the country's national broadcaster NHK reported early Wednesday that government sources in Tokyo suspected a second test had taken place.

Government officials from China, South Korea and the U.S. all told media outlets they were unaware of any new tests.

The initial suspicions appear to have been related to an earthquake. Japan's meteorological agencyreported an earthquake with amagnitude of 6.0 had struck at 8:58 a.m. off the coast of Fukushima, located about 100 kilometresnortheast of Tokyo.

Information concerning a second possible test came just hours after the five permanent members of the UN Security Council met to decide what action to take against North Korea following a test two days earlier.

North Koreasays itdetonated a nuclear weapon on Sunday and world leaders have condemned the action.

Security Council representatives from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States— as well as elected council member Japan— were meeting to discuss sanctions.

Just before the meeting, China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, said North Korea must face "some punitive actions."

Guangya told reporters the council must give a "firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response" to North Korea.

The countries were meeting Tuesday to discuss sanctions proposed by the United States, including a ban on imports of military goods and luxury items, and a crackdown on illegal financial dealings.

Experts had questioned whether Beijing would allow sanctions. China is a major ally of North Korea and an important source of both food and fuel for the desperately poor nation of 23 million.

Wang's comments suggested that Chinese leaders will allow some form of punishment, but Beijing is worried that too much pressure could cause the economically unsteady North Korea to collapse. Military experts say that could in turn send North Koreans streaming across the border into northeast China and invite intervention by the U.S. military.

U.S. says it will not talk directly with Pyongyang

Earlier, the United States said it will not be intimidated by threats from North Korea. It has no plans to engage in direct talks with Pyongyang and it believes nations around the world should work together to apply tough sanctions.

U.S. Ambassador to the UNJohn Bolton, interviewed by CNN and CBS, said Tuesday the U.S. will not respond to an alleged threat from North Korea, which says it has the ability to launch a nuclear-tipped missile at the U.S.

"This is the way North Korea typically negotiates— by threat and intimidation," Bolton said. "It's worked for them before. It won't work for them now."

The U.S. is pressing the United Nations Security Council for tough sanctions against North Korea that could include a trade ban on military and luxury items, a naval blockade that would inspect all cargo that leaves or enters the country and a freeze on material needed for its nuclear program.

Urged to rejoin six-party talks

"If they want to talk to us, all they have to do is buy a plane ticket to Beijing," where the six-party talks have been stalled for months, Bolton said.

"The North Koreans can talk to us any time they want on a bilateral basis if they come back to the six-party talks, which they have been boycotting."

Henry Champ, reporter for CBC News in Washington, reported Tuesday that the U.S. intelligence community doubts whether the explosion was actually a nuclear one. It is conducting tests to verify the validity of the test, he said.

Russia said on Tuesday the test was a "colossal blow" to the movement for non-proliferation, but it thinks the United Nations should not use force to persuade the country to abandon its nuclear program.

"I think that when a resolution is being looked at in the Security Council, we are not talking about using force," Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov told a news conference in Moscow.

"For us, that is very important. Imagine if there was military action on the territory of North Korea. North Korea has borders with three countries, and one of them is Russia."

China rejects military response

Earlier Tuesday, China said it is also "firmly against" military action in response to the nuclear test.

Liu Jianchao, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a news briefing in Beijing that China does not rule out sanctions against North Korea, but opposes military action to punish the country.

"We do not endorse any military action toward North Korea. We are firmly against that," Liu said. "Taking military action against North Korea would be unimaginable."

China said the test is having a negative effect on bilateral relations and it urged North Korea to return to six-party talks about its nuclear program.

China harshly criticized the nuclear test on Monday and insisted that Pyongyang desist from any further action that could make the situation in the region more fragile.

Japan holds to no-nukes policy

Elsewhere, Japan is considering what can be done in light of the test but said it will not affect its ban on nuclear weapons.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary session on Tuesday that Japan has no plans to alter its policy of not having nuclear weapons, despite the alleged test by North Korea.

"We have no intention of changing our policy that possessing nuclear weapons is not our option," he said. "There will be no change in our non-nuclear arms principles."

Japan's constitution forbids the use of force to settle international disputes, and Japan has a policy of not producing, possessing or using nuclear weapons.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called it an "irresponsible and dangerous act."

The test took place at 10:36 a.m. local time Sunday (9:36 p.m. ET) near the city of Kilju, according to South Korean defence sources cited by South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

With files from the Associated Press

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