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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kim Jong Il Has No Regrets Over Test

BEIJING -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has not apologized for a nuclear test but said he had no plans for a second test while reserving Pyongyang's options if the crisis escalates, China said Tuesday.

Kim's nuclear test on Oct. 9 drew regional condemnation and United Nations sanctions backed by China, his reclusive state's longtime supporter. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice toured Asia rallying support for sanctions and Chinese envoy Tang Jiaxuan visited Pyongyang.

South Korean and Japanese media reports said Kim had told Tang he regretted the difficulties the test had caused China.

On Tuesday, however, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao denied the reports, which had stirred hopes that Kim was drawing back from confrontation.

"These reports are inaccurate. I haven't heard of Kim Jong Il apologizing," Liu told a regular news conference.

"He [Kim] also indicated that the DPRK has no plans for a second nuclear test but if other countries impose more pressure, the DPRK may take further steps," Liu said.

The North's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK.

Liu's comments were China's first official reaction to the reports. Earlier, Rice had also cast doubt on them, and said North Korea was bent on escalating the crisis.

She told reporters as she left Beijing for Moscow on Saturday that Tang, a former foreign minister, had not told her of any apology or no-test promise from Kim.

While endorsing the UN sanctions, China has drawn back from calls from Washington to cut fuel and aid to North Korea and try to cajole Kim back to disarmament talks.

Beijing fears sanctions that squeeze impoverished North Korea tightly could tear apart relations and risk the North's collapse, sending waves of refugees into China and threatening regional turmoil. On Tuesday, Liu repeated China's call for limited pressure and more diplomacy.

"All parties should not willfully interpret or expand the sanctions," he said, adding that he was unaware of any Chinese plans to cut food and energy aid to Pyongyang.

He said North Korea had restated its willingness to return to six-party talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear program, but only if Washington lifted financial restrictions.

South Korean Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung has offered to resign, the South Korean presidential office said Tuesday without providing a reason, The Associated Press reported.

Yoon expressed his intention to step down in a meeting with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Monday, an official of Roh's office said on condition he not be named, citing policy. The official did not give details on why Yoon wanted to step down and whether the president planned to accept his resignation.

The Defense Ministry declined to comment. "It appears that I've finished the job given to me," The South Korean news agency Jonhap quoted Yoon as telling the president.