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S. Korea calls N.K.'s nuke threats 'deplorable'

All Headlines 13:39 September 12, 2016

SEOUL, Sept. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Monday said it is deplorable that North Korea has threatened to carry out another nuclear provocation following the latest nuke test, urging Pyongyang to give up its weapons of mass destruction program.

On Friday, North Korea conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test to date, about eight months after it carried out its fourth detonation.

Seoul's unification ministry condemned the North's provocative act, calling on Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program.

"It is really deplorable that North Korea has threatened to make nuclear provocations," Jeong Joon-hee, ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing. "We urge North Korea to take actions for denuclearization and (make efforts to improve) its people's lives."

The North said it "successfully" conducted a nuclear warhead explosion test on the 68th anniversary of the regime's founding, vowing to bolster its nuclear force.

South Korea's defense ministry said that North Korea is ready to conduct another nuclear test on the Punggye-ri nuclear site on the country's northeastern region.

Jeong said the government may consider investigating the health risks posed by North Korea's nuclear tests to North Koreans by probing the North's defectors who lived near the nuclear test site.

Citing North Korean defectors' accounts, last month Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said a large number of North Koreans living at a town near the test site are suffering from serious diseases, including cancer.

"A scholar's study on such North Korean defectors is deemed very credible," Jeong said. "(The government) could track and probe the cases."

Touching on the timing of the test, he said that North Korea seemed to take into account diplomatic schedules, including the U.N. General Assembly meeting, so as to cement its image as a nuclear state.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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