North Korea is warning that it will continue to develop its nuclear program, but says it has not envisioned "a military measure like a nuclear test."
The North Korean Central news Agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman on Tuesday as saying "the North did not have a plan for a nuclear test from the beginning, because it sought to launch a scientific and technical satellite." The spokesman also said "the road toward a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula through dialogue and negotiation still exists."
Pyongyang's statement follows weeks of Western warnings that suggest the North was preparing its third underground nuclear test since 2006. Western diplomatic and intelligence sources said late last month, however, that satellite imagery from the suspected launch site in the North did not yet show the presence of equipment necessary to conduct such a test.
Pyongyang's statement came after the Group of Eight world leaders issued a declaration Monday warning of more sanctions against the North if it continues to threaten the stability of the region.
North Korea was the target of widespread international condemnation following a failed rocket launch last month. The United Nations and a host of Western governments accused Pyongyang of using the satellite launch as a pretext for long-range missile testing prohibited under U.N. sanctions.
Weeks after North Korean launch plans were announced in March, South Korea quoted an unidentified intelligence source as saying the North appeared to be preparing for a new weapons test. The source said satellite imagery showed workers digging what appeared to be a new tunnel at the Punggye-ri site. Pyongyang conducted both previous nuclear tests at that site - the first in 2006 and again in 2009.
Tuesday's North Korean statement also said it was preparing unspecified "countermeasures" to respond to the United States, but it did not elaborate.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.