North Korea has announced it will conduct a nuclear-weapons test, without saying when. In February 2005, the North announced it possessed nuclear weapons, but this is the first time the country has publicized its intent to carry out a test.

The announcement raises the level of Pyongyang’s defiance of international cooperative efforts to maintain peace in the region following the regime’s test-firing of seven ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan on July 5. The announcement is reckless, and the regime should realize that a nuclear-weapons test will never be condoned by the international community.

North Korea’s statement said, “The extreme U.S. threat of a nuclear war, sanctions and pressure compel the DPRK to conduct a nuclear test, an essential process for bolstering its nuclear deterrent as a self-defense measure in response.”

The North has felt the impact of U.S. financial sanctions imposed against it since September 2005 following allegations that the regime sponsored money-laundering activities and was counterfeiting U.S. currency. The North apparently wants direct talks with the United States, but the U.S. has said it will hold bilateral talks with the North only within the framework of the six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear-weapons development programs. Pyongyang has boycotted those talks since November 2005 because of the financial sanctions.

The regime should not forget the lesson of July. Then, too, it apparently sought to wrest concessions from the U.S., but the missile-test demonstration backfired, incurring instead international condemnation in the form of a United Nations Security Council resolution. China and Russia supported the resolution, something North Korea did not expect.

The North’s latest announcement has invited a strong reaction even from South Korea, whose Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “North Korea will have to bear full responsibility for the consequences of a nuclear test.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s summits with Chinese President Hu Jintao and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun on Sunday and Monday, respectively, represent an important opportunity for the three countries to close ranks against North Korea.

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