The United States has told its Asian allies that traces of radiation have been detected that may confirm North Korea's announcement of a nuclear test. Word of the still inconclusive findings comes as Washington leads efforts in New York for a United Nations resolution punishing North Korea.
U.S. intelligence officials have told their South Korean and Japanese counterparts that U.S. aircraft have detected traces of radiation near North Korea.
While there is still no formal confirmation of Monday's nuclear test announcement by North Korea, analysts say the finding of radioactivity in the area would strongly suggest that the test was genuine.
South Korea says it has assumed that was the case all along. A spokesman for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said the radiation will therefore not alter Seoul's response, which is to support sanctions, as long as they are not extreme.
President Bush is urging the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution with "real consequences" for Pyongyang when it convenes for a vote Saturday. China and Russia, however, have demanded that the resolution explicitly rule out the use of military force against the North. The last-minute wrangling may cause the vote to be delayed.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, who was formally elected Friday as the next U.N. secretary-general, said Saturday he will enter the job with a "heavy heart."
He says North Korea defied international warnings by conducting its nuclear test, and he vows to use his new office to coordinate close cooperation among U.N. members to respond to the North.
North Korea's apparent test has sparked a new round of regional diplomacy here in Asia. A senior Russian envoy who just returned from North Korea says he urged the North to return to multilateral talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs. He called the visit "very useful," but did not provide details.
President Roh Moo-hyun visited Beijing Friday, where he says he and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed in principle to back U.N. Security Council action against North Korea.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to visit China, Japan, and South Korea next week to seek cooperation in dealing with the North Korean issue.
A new U.S.-prepared draft resolution circulating at the U.N. Friday evening is less strict towards North Korea than the original, in recognition of Russian and Chinese concerns.
The draft replaces a complete weapons embargo with more targeted language banning North Korea from importing major military items such as tanks, missiles, and aircraft. It would authorize all nations to stop and inspect shipping to and from North Korea.