Published September 15, 2004
BEIJING – Britain's ambassador to North Korea (search) says he and diplomats from eight other countries will travel Thursday to the site of an explosion that shot a mushroom cloud into the sky to verify claims it was caused by planned blasting for a hydroelectric project.
British officials had said the visit might take place as early as Tuesday, but Ambassador David Slinn said it was delayed by the difficulty of arranging travel to the remote area in the country's northeast.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry "has worked hard and cooperated well on putting it together," Slinn said Wednesday by telephone from the North's capital, Pyongyang (search).
"It's in an isolated part of the country," he said. "It requires a plane ride and a two- to three-hour trip" in an offroad vehicle.
Slinn said he would be joined by diplomats from the Pyongyang embassies of Germany, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, India and Mongolia.
Experts from the United States and elsewhere say they don't believe the Sept. 9 blast near the Chinese border was a nuclear test. But a Bush administration official said the United States has indications the North is trying to conduct one.
British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell, who visited Pyongyang this week, told reporters that the North's foreign minister had told him the blast was part of demolition work for a hydroelectric project and wasn't a nuclear explosion.
North Korea denounced the speculation over a possible nuclear test as part of a "preposterous smear campaign" aimed at diverting world attention away from revelations about past South Korean nuclear activities.