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Seoul Warns Pyongyang of 'Grave Consequences' from Nuclear Test

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea on May 24 warned North Korea of "grave consequences" and new international sanctions if the North goes ahead with a nuclear test, with Seoul officials assuming that Pyongyang is technically ready to conduct a third nuclear test.

   Officials and analysts believe that the North may soon set off a nuclear device following its failed launch of a long-range rocket on April 13. Pyongyang's two previous rocket launches in 2006 and 2009 were followed by nuclear tests.

   The U.N. Security Council tightened sanctions against North Korea over the failed launch, strongly condemning it as a violation of U.N. resolutions that ban the North from testing ballistic missile technology and warning of additional actions if Pyongyang conducts another missile or nuclear test.

   "If North Korea goes ahead with a nuclear test, it will be a clear breach of the April 19 presidential statement by the U.N. Security Council and therefore the Security Council will have to take new actions," foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

   Should North Korea go ahead with a nuclear test, Cho said it "will bring about grave consequences that do not help North Korea at all."

   South Korea has stepped up monitoring of activities at the North's nuclear test site, but it is difficult to figure out whether a test is imminent, Cho said.

   In a telephone interview with Yonhap News Agency on May 23, a senior government official said that North Korea appears to have finished preparations and is "technically ready" to set off a nuclear device.

   Also on May 24, defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok echoed a similar view, saying the North's nuclear test is just a matter of time and Pyongyang is waiting to make a "political choice."

   "Our judgment is that North Korea can conduct a nuclear test at any time and a political choice is left" before testing, Kim said.
South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have pressed North Korea to back down on a nuclear test, but the North vowed to boost its nuclear deterrent as long as the U.S. sticks to what it calls a "hostile policy" against the socialist regime.
"We had access to nuclear deterrence for self-defense because of the hostile policy of the U.S. to stifle the DPRK (North Korea) by force and we will expand and bolster it nonstop as long as this hostile policy goes on," the North's foreign ministry said in a report on May 22 by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.


President Lee Criticizes pro-North Korea Groups in South Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on May 28 urged "pro-North Korea" groups in the South to wake up to reality and stop blindly accepting nonsense assertions Pyongyang makes, calling their unconditional following of the socialist regime "problematic."

   It was the first time Lee, who has tried to avoid ideological remarks, has openly criticized those sympathetic to North Korea by using the word, "jongbuk," which means "blindly following the North." Pro-Pyongyang followers are criticized as jongbuk forces in South Korea.

   Lee made the criticism in his biweekly radio address, saying North Korea has made "wild assertions" denying its involvement in attacks on South Korea, including a 1983 terrorist bombing targeted at the then South Korean president in Myanmar and the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship.

   "The North has repeatedly made such wild assertions, but what is more problematic are some pro-North Korea groups within our society," Lee said. "Just as the international community is demanding the North change, those people who unconditionally support North Korea must change; they are, after all, living in the Republic of Korea that has joined the ranks of advanced countries."

   Criticism of pro-North Korean groups has risen sharply in South Korea in recent months after some lawmakers-elect of the leftist opposition Unified Progressive Party displayed strong leanings to the socialist nation and reluctance to criticize the regime.

   Earlier in May, Lee visited Myanmar as the first South Korean president to visit the country in 29 years since the North's 1983 terrorist bombing ripped through a Yangon mausoleum. The attack killed 17 South Koreans, including some Cabinet ministers. Lee visited the mausoleum during the trip.

   "What wrong did they do and to whom? They were the victims of the division of the country and a ruthless terrorist attack. I could not hold back my anger thinking about who took their lives. I felt all choked up," he said in the radio address.

   Lee praised Myanmar for opening up to the outside world with sweeping democratic reforms, saying he hopes the North will follow in Myanmar's footsteps, "change its thinking, make new friends and open a new age."

   South Korea and Myanmar can become good business partners, Lee said.

   "It is significant for Korea to have another big market the size of Vietnam in the region," he said. "Our country can be assured of the abundant resources of Myanmar and actually invest in it. If our two nations consult and make thorough preparations this year, Korean businesses can make inroads in earnest, beginning next year."