Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cautioned North Korea on Friday that a second nuclear test would only further deepen Pyongyang's isolation, while her South Korean counterpart said there was no indication that the North was preparing for a test.
“The reasonable course is to return to six-party talks,” Rice told reporters at a news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, referring to efforts by the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said there would be “severe consequences” to the diplomatic effort to end Pyongyang’s atomic ambitions if it conducted another nuclear test, Reuters reported.
Song said that the U.S. and South Korea were closely watching the North's nuclear activities, but there were no signs that a follow-up to the North's Oct. 9 nuclear test was imminent.
“North Korea has to know that (a) nuclear weapon does not guarantee its security, nor help in resolving its economic problems,” Song said. “They have to come back to talks and denuclearize the peninsula and get the right opening for their country in the future.”
ABC News reported Thursday that the communist-led regime appeared to have made preparations for another nuclear test, and that the preparations were similar to steps Pyongyang took before its first nuclear detonation. The report cited unnamed U.S. defense officials.
Rice would not talk about U.S. intelligence but said officials had seen no change in current circumstances.
The six-nation talks, held last month in Beijing, represent an attempt to swap economic incentives and a U.S. assurance of respect for North Korea's security for cessation of the North's nuclear weapons program.
Rice said that if North Korea “is prepared to return in a more constructive spirit,” the talks could be reopened fairly soon. But, she said, we “know of no substantive response from the North Koreans.”
She was glowing, though, in her praise of South Korea: “We have few better friends.”