Russian military chief calls for steps to prevent North Korea nuclear test

Russia's military chief of staff reportedly called Monday for steps to prevent North Korea from conducting nuclear tests, expressing a sense of urgency amid increasing U.S. concern that Pyongyang may soon conduct a test.

"Today it is necessary to do everything possible in order not to allow North Korea to conduct (nuclear) tests," the Interfax news agency quoted Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, chief of the general staff of the armed forces, as saying. He did not specify what might be done to prevent it.

Baluyevsky also called for the renewal of six-nation talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to drop its nuclear weapons program.

"We simply must not allow to testing or existence of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula," he said.

The statement came amid questions about how nations involved in the dormant six-sided talks - The United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan - would react if Pyongyang does conduct a test.

North Korea says it has removed fuel rods from a reactor - a step toward extracting weapons-grade plutonium - and U.S. officials say spy satellites spotted the digging of a tunnel and the construction of a reviewing stand in northeastern North Korea, possibly suggesting an upcoming test.

A nuclear test by North Korea could give the United States more leverage in persuading other permanent U.N. Security Council nations, especially Russia and China, to support U.N.-approved penalties against the hard-line communist country. Russia has expressed opposition in the past to taking the issue to the Security Council.

The Soviet Union was North Korea's principle aid donor for years, and Russia has cordial relations with Pyongyang, but analysts say that shrinking trade means Moscow has far less influence with its government than China does.

Associated Press

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