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Hints of Another N. Korea Test Seen

U.S. intelligence detects activity near blast site that may augur a second nuclear explosion.

October 18, 2006|Greg Miller | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence agencies have detected new activity near the site where North Korea detonated a nuclear device last week, suggesting possible preparations for a second test, a U.S. intelligence official said Tuesday.

The indications of a possible follow-up test, coinciding with similar reports from South Korea and Japan, prompted warnings from Washington and other capitals that a second nuclear explosion would heighten international tensions and deepen North Korea's isolation.

The White House did not rule out the possibility of a second test.

"Let me put it this way: The North Koreans have made no secret of their desire to be provocative," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said.

North Korea's test Oct. 9 was considered by analysts to be at least a partial failure because of its low explosive yield, less than the equivalent of 1,000 tons of dynamite, which is much smaller than most nuclear blasts.

The U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because intelligence findings were being discussed, said another try by the North Korean government in Pyongyang was possible.

"Nobody has discarded the possibility of another test," the official said.

At the same time, the official noted that activity is frequently seen at such sites, and that an imminent test is frequently indicated by relative calm as crews clear the test area.

The U.S. State Department said there was nothing to "indicate one way or the other" whether a second test was about to take place.

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