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Kerry warns of N. Korea nuke test punishment

SEOUL--New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his South Korean counterpart have agreed to make sure North Korea is punished if it carries out its threat to conduct a nuclear test. Amid signs that such a test is coming, South Korea's president also speculated that Pyongyang may detonate multiple atomic devices simultaneously.

Under a U.N. Security Council resolution last month condemning a North Korean long-range rocket launch that the U.N. and others call a disguised test of banned missile technology, Pyongyang is subject to new sanctions if it detonates its third nuclear device since 2006.

North Korea announced last month that it will conduct a nuclear test to protest the toughened sanctions over its December launch, which delivered a satellite into orbit.

During a phone conversation between Kerry and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, “there was agreement that ... if the DPRK continues its provocative behavior and takes further steps, that there must be further consequences,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday. DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

'Multiple,' 'Imminent'

North Korea may simultaneously conduct multiple nuclear tests as it tries to create a warhead small enough to fit atop a long-range missile, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak told the South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, in an interview published Tuesday. Lee did not say whether his comments were based on intelligence findings.

A North Korean nuclear test “seems to be imminent,” South Korea's U.N. Ambassador Kim Sook said Monday at a news conference at U.N. headquarters in New York.

He said there are “very busy activities” taking place at North Korea's nuclear test site “and everybody's watching.” The ambassador said he expects the Security Council to respond with “firm and strong measures” in the event of a nuclear test.

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