updated 10/9/2006 8:35:10 AM ET 2006-10-09T12:35:10

U.S. government officials said Sunday that a wide range of agencies were looking into the report of a North Korean nuclear test.

The officials, speaking anonymously because of the political sensitivity of the situation, said the U.S. was taking the reports seriously.

North Korea said Monday that it had performed its first-ever nuclear test. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the test was conducted at 9:36 p.m. EDT Sunday.

A White House official said administration officials have not been able to confirm the report independently, but are trying to learn more about it.

U.S. intelligence has been closely watching several sites in North Korea that could be used for a nuclear test. Movements of people, automobiles, fencing and other items convinced some analysts last week that a test could come soon. Guest quarters overlooking one site were also of interest.

Over the last week, U.S. officials have been anticipating news of a nuclear weapons test in North Korea.

‘Provocative act’
“It would be a very provocative act by the North Koreans,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday. “A North Korean nuclear test ... would create a qualitatively different situation on the Korean peninsula. I think that you would see that a number of states in the region would need to reassess where they are now with North Korea.”

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top U.S. negotiator on the communist country’s nuclear program, said Thursday that if North Korea conducted a nuclear test, “We would have no choice but to act and act resolutely to make sure (North Korea) understood, and make sure every other country in the world understands, that this is a very bad mistake.”

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday that a successful North Korean nuclear weapon test would show weakness on the part of the international community.

“And that failure ... is something that the international community would have to register and ask itself how comfortable are we being that ineffective in this situation,” Rumsfeld said.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Tuesday that a North Korean test “would be contrary to the interests of all of North Korea’s neighbors and to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The U.N. Security Council urged North Korea on Friday to cancel the planned nuclear test and return immediately to talks on scrapping its nuclear weapons program, saying that exploding such a device would threaten international peace and security.

‘Deep concern’
A statement adopted unanimously by the council expressed “deep concern” over North Korea’s announcement.

The U.S. and its allies have been trying to lure North Korea back to stalled international efforts to persuade Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear weapons program.

The North has pushed for direct talks with the United States, something Washington says it will not do outside the framework of the stalled six-nation talks. The North has refused to return to the disarmament talks because of U.S. financial restrictions imposed for its alleged illegal activity, including money laundering and counterfeiting.

Many experts believe the North has enough radioactive material to build at least a half-dozen or more nuclear weapons.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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