North Korea said Saturday it had no plans to conduct a third nuclear test, but lashed out at the South for trying to "rattle the nerves of the DPRK [North Korea] in a bid to cause it to conduct a nuclear test."
In a statement from the official Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry spokesman denied plans for a nuclear test "at present," amid widespread speculation that North Korea was nearing completion of preparations to test a nuclear device for the third time after two failed attempts in 2006 and 2009.
The statement charged that President Lee Myung-Bak's government in Seoul was trying to incite cross-border clashes similar to the shelling that occurred in November 2010 when Pyongyang attacked a South Korean border island.
The spokesman said South Korea was trying to aggravate the situation through "uninterrupted provocations. Through those provocations the group [government] seeks to rattle the nerves of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] in a bid to cause it to conduct a nuclear test, though such a thing is not under plan at present."
The official said Seoul sought to paint Pyongyang with a "belligerent nature" in an attempt to "create an atmosphere of putting pressure and sanctions on it," adding that the international community hoped that the Lee government would step down "for the detente on the peninsula and regional peace and stability," AFP reported.
An analysis of the satellite imagery of North's nuclear test site, published mid-May by the U.S.-based research institute 38 North, appeared to show that the construction of a nuclear reactor that could be used to revive the country's nuclear weapons program.
The analysis of the satellite imagery, captured April 30, showed that Pyongyang had resumed work on its new experimental light water reactor (ELWR), which the DPRK says is intended to meet domestic energy needs, but is also an important component in its effort to build nuclear weapons.
"Over all, it may take another one to two years before the new facility becomes operational," 38 North said in a statement reported by the New York Times.
South Korean intelligence, in a report early April, said that the North was digging a new tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear site, which was interpreted as a sign of a covert nuclear weapons program.
Reportedly, China, the North's most critical ally, was nudging Pyongyang to shelve plans for a third nuclear test, during several secretive discussions between the top officials of both the governments.
"China is unhappy ... and urged North Korea not to conduct nuclear test near Changbai Mountain," a source aware of the top-level discussions told Reuters last month on condition of anonymity. "China also complained about the environmental damage to the area after the first two tests."
North's two previous nuclear tests had caused environmental damage to the mountainous terrain bordering China.
Pyongyang drew heavy international criticism when tested a long-range missile April 13, purportedly aimed at boosting its power to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. The North's ambitious attempt to launch the Unha-3 rocket failed when it broke apart shortly after takeoff.
China condemned the rocket launch along with other world powers in a United Nations Security Council statement but ignored calls for harsher sanctions on the North Korean regime.
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