North Korea said Saturday it has no plans “at present” to conduct a nuclear test despite what it called South Korean attempts to provoke the situation.
Seoul’s government was trying to aggravate the situation through “uninterrupted provocations” against the North, a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by Pyongyang’s official news agency.
“Through those provocations the group (government) seeks to rattle the nerves of the DPRK (North Korea) in a bid to cause it to conduct a nuclear test, though such a thing is not under plan at present…” the spokesman said.
There has been widespread international speculation that the North will stage its third atomic weapons test, after the United Nations Security Council censured its failed rocket launch in April and tightened sanctions.
The North responded with nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 after the UN imposed sanctions against its rocket launches.
Satellite photos in April showed work under way at its atomic test site but gave no indication of whether or when a test would be staged.
The statement also accused the South’s conservative government led by President Lee Myung-Bak of trying to incite a border incident similar to the North’s deadly shelling of a South Korean border island in November 2010.
It said the aim was to hype Pyongyang’s “belligerent nature” in an attempt to “create an atmosphere of putting pressure and sanctions on it”.
The North for months has heaped vitriol on Lee and his government, referring to them as “rats” and “human scum” and calling for their death.
It has threatened “sacred war” against the South in retaliation for perceived insults during Pyongyang’s April commemoration of the centenary of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung.
On Monday Pyongyang’s military threatened rocket attacks on the Seoul offices of seven media outlets in revenge for their critical coverage of a mass children’s event north of the border.
Saturday’s foreign ministry statement was relatively mildly worded, saying only that all nations seeking regional peace want the Lee government to “stop going reckless and step down quietly”.
The international community, it said, hopes that the Lee group quits as early as possible “for the detente on the peninsula and regional peace and stability”.
Lee’s term in office ends next February. His government abandoned an aid and engagement policy and linked major assistance to denuclearisation by the North.
The North’s current regime led by Kim Jong-Un, who took over after his father Kim Jong-Il died last December, has sent mixed signals to the world.
In February it agreed a deal with the United States, offering to freeze its uranium enrichment programme and suspend nuclear and missile tests in exchange for 240,000 tonnes of US food aid.
But on April 13 it launched a long-range rocket in what it called an attempt to put a satellite into orbit, prompting the US to suspend the start of food deliveries.
The North insists a peaceful satellite launch is not the same as a missile test. But the UN Security Council said condemned the launch, which breached a UN ban on testing ballistic missile technology.