Concern mounts over North Korea
Asian and European foreign ministers have urged North
Korea to rejoin talks on its nuclear programme amid
fears it is about to test a nuclear bomb.
The ministers expressed "deep concern" about
Pyongyang's claim to have developed nuclear weapons.
Their statement, from a summit in Japan, came a day
after US intelligence reports that a test was being
The UN's atomic watchdog has appealed to world leaders
to do their utmost to prevent such a test from
A joint statement issued at the 38-nation Asia-Europe
Meeting (ASEM), called on Pyongyang to rejoin talks on
its nuclear programme.
"The ministers strongly urged the DPRK [North Korea]
to return to the negotiating table of the six-party
talks without any further delay and to make a
strategic decision so as to achieve the
denuclearisation of the peninsula in a peaceful manner
through dialogue," it said.
Pyongyang has shunned the multilateral discussion of
its nuclear activities for almost a year.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN's atomic
watchdog, has warned a test would have "disastrous
political and environmental consequences".
Satellite images inconclusive
Recent images taken by US spy satellites reportedly
show activity at a suspected North Korean test site at
Gilju, in the north-east of the country.
The images show excavation and some construction
which, a US defence official told the BBC, could be
preparations for an underground nuclear test.
But the official also warned that the US intelligence
community had not concluded that a nuclear test was
Instead, the official said, it could simply be a ruse
by North Korea to strengthen its bargaining power with
The BBC's Jonathan Head in Kyoto says China's Foreign
Minister Li Zhaoxing is likely to come under pressure
to show more willingness to try to bring North Korea
back to the talks.
But he says there is disagreement on how to persuade
Pyongyang to return to the six-party negotiations,
involving the two Koreas, Russia, China, the US and
Japan, he says, supports the threat of UN Security
Council sanctions whereas China and South Korea
believe this approach to be too provocative.
Complicating these differences, our correspondent
adds, is the mistrust and rivalry which surfaced
recently between Japan and China which is preventing
Asia's most powerful countries from presenting a
united front against North Korea.