United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged North Korea not to carry out a new nuclear test – saying it would be a “provocative” act.
The comments came as South Korea backtracked over comments that the North was preparing to carry out a fourth test.
South Korean minister Ryoo Kilhl-Jae had told parliament there were such signs amid reports of increased activity at the main atomic test site Punggye-ri.
But later South Korea’s Defence Ministry said: “We found there had been no unusual movements that indicated it wanted to carry out a nuclear test.”
Mr Ban said: “The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea cannot go on like this, confronting and challenging the authority of the (UN) Security Council and the international community.
“I am urging them to refrain from taking any further provocative measures.”
China’s Foreign Ministry also said it wanted peace on the Korean peninsula, not war, adding a proper solution to the crisis was the responsibility of all parties.
The Pentagon has already strengthened its missile defences in response to the repeated threats made by Pyongyang in recent weeks.
However, the New York Times has reported a more thorough plan that sets out a limited but forceful response to any future provocation has been drawn up by the US and South Korea.
Meanwhile, it said US officials had outlined a “counter-provocation” plan that would see a “response in kind” that would hit the source of any North Korean attack with similar weapons.
South Korea has appealed for North Korea to allow access to the Kaesong joint industrial park, six miles inside its borders.
The North has banned South Korean managers and personnel from crossing the border to enter the complex, the last remaining symbol of inter-Korean co-operation, since last Wednesday.
So far 13 the 123 South Korean firms operating there have been forced to halt production due to fuel and raw material shortages.
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Contributed by Mark Stone of news.sky.com.