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N. Korea 'ready for war or talks'

North Korea's nuclear ambitions have caused alarm and protests in the South.
North Korea's nuclear ambitions have caused alarm and protests in the South.

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South Korea's intelligence agency says it believes North Korea has begun testing devices used to trigger nuclear explosions. CNN's Mike Chinoy reports (July 10)
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SEOUL, South Korea -- A North Korean envoy has said his country is ready for "both war and dialogue" as debate continues over the North's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

Speaking in Seoul Thursday ahead of talks with South Korean officials, Kim Ryong Song said the North's ideal scenario was "to resolve the (nuclear) issue peacefully."

But, he added, "if outside forces ignore our position and try to use force, we will face them boldly and show our strength."

Kim said cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang was essential to prevent war on the Korean Peninsula amid a crisis over the North's suspected development of nuclear weapons.

He also issued a defiant warning to Washington, although avoided mentioning the United States or the Bush administration by name.

"Throughout history, our nation has been harassed by foreign invaders," Kim said.

"We will no longer succumb to foreign coercion and we are fully ready to launch counterattacks. We are ready for both war and dialogue."

His comments came after South Korea's intelligence service delivered a report to lawmakers Wednesday saying it believes North Korea has taken several key steps toward the production of nuclear bombs.

The head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) said North Korea has begun reprocessing its stock of spent nuclear fuel rods and testing devices used to trigger nuclear explosions.

CNN's Seoul Correspondent Sohn Jie-ae said the report was the first confirmation by South Korea of long-standing suspicions from the United States and appeared to signal an agreement between the two countries that North Korea is indeed pushing ahead with efforts to build a nuclear weapon.

Key components

Experts say that if successfully extracted, the plutonium inside the North's 8,000 spent fuel rods could be enough to produce several nuclear devices within a matter of months.

The devices tested are believed to be high explosives used to trigger a nuclear blast -- a key component in the construction of a working nuclear bomb.

According to the intelligence report, the testing took place at Yongdok, about 40 kilometers northwest of the Yongbyon complex.

At least 70 such tests have been conducted, the NIS said.

North Korea's stock of spent fuel rods was part of a plutonium-based nuclear weapons program that was frozen under a 1994 nuclear agreement between North Korea and the United States.

That deal unraveled earlier this year after the U.S. accused North Korea of continuing with a covert plan to enrich weapons-grade uranium for use in bombs.

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