After several days of speculation, North Korea said on Monday the 4-kilometer (2 miles) wide cloud spotted on satellite images by South Korea's Yonhap agency was the result of a deliberate demolition of a mountain for a power plant.
North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun provided the explanation to British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell, who has just concluded a four-day visit to the reclusive nation.
Rammell said Tuesday he also formed the view that &to=http://english.pravda.ru/main/2003/01/29/42696.html' target=_blank>North Korea was committed to holding six-party talks aimed at resolving the crisis over its nuclear weapons program. But he said Pyongyang was not yet prepared to commit to a date.
The cause of the smoke, which was spotted on the day North Korea marks its founding, is still a mystery to U.S. and South Korean intelligence, though the Communist state is watched closely using spy satellites and other means.
A &to=http://english.pravda.ru/usa/2002/10/22/38475.html' target=_blank>Bush official said Monday the administration is not prepared to "speculate" about what happened in North Korea, reports CNN.
According to China Daily, North Korea said Monday last week's explosion in a remote northern area was part of a hydro-electric project. Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun told British Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell that the blast was the deliberate demolition of a mountain for the project.
Rammell is the highest British official to visit Pyongyang and he had been expected to meet the North's leader Kim Jong-il.
South Korean officials Sunday confirmed indications of a large explosions in the region bordering China on the night of Sept. 8 and early morning of Sept. 9.
U.S. officials, including &to=http://english.pravda.ru/main/2003/03/01/43889.html' target=_blank>Secretary of State Colin Powell, also played down the possibility of a nuclear test.
Powell said there was "no indication that that was a nuclear event of any kind. Exactly what it was, we're not sure." Asked on ABC's "This Week" if North Korea had tested a nuclear device, Powell said, "No."
Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-woong said South Korea would use its intelligence channels and satellite images to check on the source of the blast in a northern region of the North that was big enough to raise concerns it might be a nuclear test.
"The weather is clear, so we should be able to take satellite images today and tomorrow and analyze them," Yoon told pool reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. "We should be able to confirm the site of the explosion," he said.
North Korea's official KCNA news agency said on Monday that reports of a large accidental explosion at the site or a nuclear test was a "preposterous smear campaign," informs Reuters.