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May 23, 2012

N. Korea: No nuclear test planned for now

After a failed launch, North Korean officials said they plan to conduct underground nuclear tests. (UPI Photo/Stephen Shaver)

PYONGYANG, North Korea (UPI) -- North Korean officials ruled out an imminent underground nuclear test Tuesday, but said the country would expand its nuclear deterrence and satellite program.

A spokesman for North Korea's Foreign Ministry said the country didn't have a plan for a nuclear test from the beginning because it sought to launch a scientific and technical satellite, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.

"From the beginning, we did not envisage such a military measure as a nuclear test as we planned to launch a scientific and technical satellite for peaceful purposes," the spokesman said in an interview with North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency.

After a planned launch in April failed, North Korean officials indicated they would conduct an underground nuclear test. Pyongyang said the April launch was to put a scientific satellite in orbit, but other leaders said they believed it was to test-launch a long-range rocket.

The statement came a day after South Korea, the United States and Japan envoys warned that North Korea risked facing further sanctions and isolation if it conducted a nuclear test.

The ministry spokesman said North Korea will "bravely frustrate" what the spokesman called "hostile forces" by exercising its right to launch satellites "to meet the indispensable requirements for building an economic power."

The ministry spokesman said North Korea will "expand and bolster" its nuclear deterrence "as long as this hostile policy goes on."

"If the U.S. persists in its moves to ratchet up sanctions and pressure upon us despite our peace-loving efforts," the spokesman said, "we will be left with no option but to take counter-measures for self-defense."

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