SEOUL - North Korea is unlikely to respond militarily to planned U.N. sanctions for its nuclear test, but the possibility should not be completely dismissed, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said.
Here are some steps the reclusive state could take if the resolution, written by the United States and endorsed by the four other permanent members plus Japan and South Korea, is adopted:
ANGRY RHETORIC, THEN DIPLOMACY
- North Korea might fire off a diatribe if the resolution is adopted but not respond militarily using either its conventional or strategic weapons. When the Security Council passed a resolution in 2006 after the North's first nuclear test, its U.N. envoy called the move gangster-like and a coercive act. Its foreign ministry called it a declaration of war.
- The North, however, set itself on course to return to the negotiating table two months later, ending a year-long deadlock in disarmament talks.
- Officials and experts say the North's recent provocative moves are linked to leader Kim Jong-il arranging for one of his sons to take over. Fighting against perceived hostility from the international community has been a staple of the North's domestic propaganda, used to consolidate power around Kim.
- North Korea has said it would test fire an intercontinental ballistic missile if the U.N. Security Council does not apologize for punishing it for its April rocket launch, widely seen as a disguised missile test that violated U.N. resolutions. The North appears to be preparing a long-range missile for a test that could be conducted as early as this month.
- Pyongyang also appears to be readying for tests of mid-range missiles that could strike anywhere in South Korea or most of Japan.
MORE NUCLEAR TESTS
- Experts said the North needs more tests in order to build a nuclear warhead it can mount on a missile.
- Each test eats into the North's meager supply of fissile material, thought before the May test to be enough for six to eight bombs.
- Additional tests depend on balancing a desire to make a nuclear device it can deliver on a missile with perfecting the bomb design.
NUCLEAR ARMS PROGRAMME
- North Korea could resume all operations at its Yongbyon nuclear plant and has said it is already processing plutonium there.
- It may also look to step up enriching uranium for weapons.
- North Korea sentenced two U.S. journalists to 12 years hard labor on Monday and may want to use them to increase bargaining leverage with the United States.
(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz)