North Korea has told its key ally, China, that it is prepared to stage one or even two more nuclear tests this year in an effort to force the United States into diplomatic talks with Pyongyang, said a source with direct knowledge of the message.
Further tests could also be accompanied this year by another rocket launch, said the source, who has direct access to the top levels of government in both Beijing and Pyongyang.
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The isolated regime conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday, drawing global condemnation and a stern warning from the United States that it was a threat and a provocation.
"It's all ready. A fourth and fifth nuclear test and a rocket launch could be conducted soon, possibly this year," the source said, adding that the fourth nuclear test would be much larger than the third at an equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT.
The tests will be undertaken unless Washington holds talks with North Korea and abandons its policy of what Pyongyang sees as attempts at regime change.
North Korea also reiterated its long-standing desire for the United States to sign a final peace agreement with it and establish diplomatic relations, he said.
The North remains technically at war with both the United States and South Korea after the Korean war ended in 1953 with a truce.
The UN Security Council has only just tightened sanctions on Pyongyang after it launched a long-range rocket in December. The North is banned under UN sanctions from developing missile or nuclear technology after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
"Based on satellite imagery that showed there were the same activities in two tunnels, they have one tunnel left after the latest test," said Kune Y. Suh, a nuclear engineering professor at Seoul National University in South Korea.
US, EU warn against 'provocation'
The United States on Friday called on North Korea to refrain from "additional provocative actions" following reports that Pyongyang plans more nuclear tests.
Also on Friday, the European Union will tighten sanctions on North Korea to curb trade in gold and diamonds and crack down on financial links in protest at Pyongyang's recent rocket launch and nuclear test, EU diplomats said.
The new sanctions will be formally approved by EU foreign ministers on Monday.
Diplomats from Britain and several other EU countries with embassies in North Korea are also expected to show their displeasure by boycotting Saturday's celebrations of the birth of late leader Kim Jong-il, one EU diplomat said.
The 27-nation EU will adopt expanded sanctions approved by the UN Security Council in January but will add others of its own, according to EU diplomats. It will also say that it is considering further measures.
The European Union already has an extensive list of sanctions on North Korea, including on technology that could be used in a nuclear or ballistic missile program.
The new EU sanctions will prohibit trade in gold and other precious metals, and diamonds, with North Korean public bodies and will ban trade in new public bonds issued by North Korea. Pyongyang's banks would be barred from opening new branches in the EU and the latter's banks would not be able to open new branches in the now almost completely pariah-state.
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