The South Korean government insisted Friday that what it called an experiment to enrich uranium at the Korea Atomic Energy Institute in 2000 was an unauthorized experiment by unsupervised scientists.
Seoul said it would have to await the outcome of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections to see if its failure to declare the experiments at the time had violated the United Nations agency's safeguard agreements, reports International Herald Tribune.
According to Reuters, "All parties should send a clear message to North Korea about a nuclear-free peninsula and the need for North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.
But a senior administration official said the White House was not singling out Seoul after it acknowledged the 4-year-old experiments and the International Atomic Energy Agency announced a major investigation.
"We're not asking for any South Korean actions," the official said.
South Korea said the experiments, which involved enriching uranium with lasers, were carried out by a group of scientists without government knowledge and soon ended. It said it has no nuclear weapons program or capability.
"Obviously it is something of concern," McClellan said.
But administration officials sought to play down the implications for U.S.-led efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs.
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