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(2nd LD) Park urges N. Korea to immediately halt nuclear test plans
SEOUL, Feb. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's president-elect Park Geun-hye urged North Korea on Monday to immediately drop its nuclear test plans amid increased movement at the test site that points to an imminent third blast.

   A mine car has been spotted moving in and out of the western tunnel of the test site in Punggye-ri in the North's northeastern tip. A car believed to have been carrying a senior official was also spotted at the tunnel's western part, an official said on condition of anonymity, citing the issue's sensitivity.

   The visit to the western tunnel by an unidentified official sparked speculation in South Korea that the North wanted to carry out a final inspection of the site before going ahead with its third nuclear test.

   North Korea is believed to have completed preparations for the nuclear test, which it could carry out at any time. Pyongyang has in recent weeks stepped up its threats to go ahead with a test in response to a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning its Dec. 12 long-range rocket launch.

   The North has claimed the launch was intended to put a satellite into orbit, but South Korea and the United States denounced it as a disguised test of missile technology. The U.N. has banned such launches due to concern they could be used to develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

   Park warned the communist nation would gain nothing but strong punishment from the international community if it forges ahead with an atomic blast.

   "I once again urge that North Korea halt this (nuclear test plan) immediately," Park said in remarks made at the start of a security briefing from her transition team. "North Korea should understand it has nothing to gain from this provocation and should know that it will rather face strong responses from the international community."

   Her comment came a day after the North's state media reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made an "important" decision regarding the communist state's security and sovereignty.

   Park also said in a separate meeting with former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry earlier in the day that the North "should be made to take responsibility for its wrong actions."

   The warnings are believed to be Park's strongest yet against the communist nation pushing ahead with a test, a security challenge that would also put her leadership to a serious test.

   Park, set to take office on Feb. 25, said the main point of her North Korea policy is to build up trust between the two Koreas so as to improve relations and realize "sustainable peace." A key precondition for the policy is for North Korea to "make a right choice" and focus on improving the lives of its people, rather than nuclear and missile development, she said.

   In Beijing, South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Lim Sung-nam, met with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, and shared common views that a nuclear test by Pyongyang will pose a grave threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, said a South Korean official with the knowledge of the talks.

   Wu stressed that China will continue to make diplomatic efforts to dissuade North Korea from conducting the nuclear test, according to the same South Korean official.

   As a key ally of the North, China is widely believed to have significant leverage over its impoverished communist neighbor that has long been dependent on Chinese diplomatic support and economic aid.

   Also Monday, South Korea and the United States began a joint naval drill along the eastern coast, military officials said, in what could be seen as their latest show of force against North Korea.

   Uriminzokkiri, North Korea's propaganda Web site, lashed out at South Korea and the U.S. over their joint naval drill, claiming the drill is meant to threaten North Korea and launch a war.

  (END)
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