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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Optimistic on N. Korea

Itar-TassPresident Vladimir Putin reviewing questions before Wednesday's show.
North Korea should not be backed into a corner over its nuclear test if the global community wants to resolve the crisis over the North's atomic ambitions, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

His comments come as Asia-Pacific powers sought to pin down the details of United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea for its Oct. 9 test that Pyongyang blamed on U.S. "double standards" regarding nuclear issues on Wednesday.

Putin, referring to six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, said one of the reasons Pyongyang had resorted to conducting the test was that "not all participants in negotiations were able to find the right tone."

"You must never push one of the participants in talks into a corner and place it in a situation from which it can find no way out other than boosting tension," he said during a live television call-in show.

Responding to a question from a resident of Nakhodka, a city on the Pacific coast, who expressed concern at the close proximity of the Oct. 9 test, Putin said North Korea was sending "signals that the country is ready to return to negotiations if its national interests in terms of security and development of civil nuclear power are assured."

"I believe that with goodwill from all participants, a solution can be found," Putin said.

South Korea officially confirmed Wednesday that North Korea had conducted a nuclear test, saying abnormal radiation had been detected in the country.

Xenon, an inert gas released when there is a nuclear explosion, has been found in air samples collected in South Korea, the Science and Technology Ministry said in a brief statement.

"The government officially confirms the fact that North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test on Oct. 9," the statement said.

The finding corroborates a U.S. government announcement last week that air sample analysis detecting radioactive debris "confirms that North Korea conducted an underground nuclear explosion."

South Korea said Wednesday that it had formed a task force on how to impose UN sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear test.

The nuclear test outraged the international community, prompting the UN Security Council to unanimously adopt a sanctions resolution on Oct. 14, although South Korea has been reluctant to adopt stern measures against its volatile neighbor.

The UN resolution calls for all member countries to state their plans on how to implement sanctions on the North. A report should be submitted to the UN sanctions committee no later than 30 days after the resolution's passage.

Seoul has formed an interagency task force to draw up a report and the team held its first meeting Tuesday, Vice Foreign Minister Lee Kyu-hyung told a regular news briefing.

North Korea warned Wednesday that any move by South Korea to impose trade, travel or financial sanctions would be seen as a "declaration of confrontation," which would elicit "corresponding measures" from Pyongyang.

The North also warned that sanctions could cause a breakdown in inter-Korean relations. "If North-South relations collapse due to reckless and imprudent actions against us, the South Korean authorities will be fully responsible for it and will have to pay a high price," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reconciliation of the Fatherland said in a statement, carried by its official Korean Central News Agency.

How to enforce the sanctions has also been an issue between the United States and China, the North's last-remaining major ally. Beijing voted for the UN resolution and said it would meet its obligations, but is concerned that excessive measures could worsen the situation.

Meanwhile, a top U.S. military official said the U.S. military would prevail in a war against North Korea, although with a greater cost of lives than if the United States were not already fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It would not be as clean as we would like it to be, but it would certainly be sure, and the outcome would not be in doubt," said Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a news briefing on Tuesday.

The nuclear test had continued repercussions across the border, where South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok on Wednesday offered to step down, apologizing over the North's test, the office of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said Wednesday.

(AP, Reuters)