North Korea may carry out nuclear test by June - Kyodo
The United States has warned the International Atomic Energy Agency that North Korea has been preparing to carry out an underground nuclear test since March and could go ahead as early as June, Kyodo news agency said on Saturday.
The report, which quoted diplomatic sources in Vienna, came a day after the chief U.S. negotiator to stalled talks on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions said Washington believed North Korea might be trying to harvest material for a nuclear bomb from a shut-down reactor.
According to the sources, who said the information was obtained by satellite photos and from within North Korea, Pyongyang was preparing to test a small-scale plutonium device.
The United States had called on China to urge North Korea to halt its preparations.
Japanese officials were unavailable for comment.
Last week, following a similar report, a senior U.S. administration official said that Washington had seen no evidence that North Korea was preparing for a nuclear weapons test, although it had seen "lots of stuff suggesting interesting activity."
On Friday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters in Seoul that a North Korean plutonium reactor at Yongbyon had been shut down for close to three weeks and there could be an operation under way to reprocess nuclear material.
The shutdown and the possibility of a nuclear test were of great concern to nations trying to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs through six-party talks, he added.
In February, North Korea said it possessed nuclear weapons and was withdrawing from the talks, in which the United States, Japan, Russia, China and the two Koreas have taken part.
The last round took place in June 2004, and repeated efforts to restart the talks have failed.