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China calls for tough reply

United Nations, Oct. 10 (Reuters): China, North Korea’s most important ally, today joined other world powers in calling for a tough response to the reclusive communist state’s announcement of a nuclear weapons test.

China and Russia, which both border North Korea, met with other veto-holding members of the UN Security Council to discuss a range of sanctions proposed by the US and Japan to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programme.

China’s UN Ambassador, Wang Guangya, said: “I think that there has to be some punitive actions.” He added: “We need to have a firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response to North Korea’s nuclear threat.”

In Moscow, Russian defence minister Sergei Ivanov called the reported test a “colossal blow” to the non-proliferation regime but, like China, insisted an eventual UN resolution on this issue should not involve the use of force. “For us that is very important ... imagine if there was military action on the territory of North Korea ... North Korea has borders with three countries, and one of them is Russia,” he said.

The US, France and Britain, the other council permanent members, agreed that tough measures were needed fast, despite the fact that only one country — Russia — has said the evidence so far available confirms a nuclear blast actually occurred.

No vote has been scheduled but Japan’s UN ambassador Kenzo Oshima, this month’s council president, said: “The general feeling of members is to get it done as early as possible.”

In Beijing, China said it had no information about widespread speculation that North Korea might be ready to conduct a second test.

Asked what Beijing thought of the possibility of military action, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said:“I think this is an unimaginable way.”

According to South Korea’s Hankyoreh newspaper, a North Korean diplomat said today the country’s nuclear test was smaller in blast force than expected, but claimed Pyongyang was able to detonate a more powerful device

A Hong Kong newspaper, Wen Wei Po, reported that China had cancelled leave for troops along at least part of its border with North Korea and that some were conducting “anti-chemical” training exercises.

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