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SEOUL — U.S. military officials in the Western Pacific remained tight-lipped about North Korea’s claim it tested a nuclear weapon early Monday morning.

U.S. Forces Korea and U.S. Forces Japan spokespeople declined to comment on reports of the test, which had yet to be independently confirmed late Monday, and they directed queries to the Pentagon and State Department in Washington.

The U.S. military in the Pacific showed no outward signs of increased force-protection status. According to the USFK Web site, all U.S. troops on the peninsula remained at Force Protection Bravo on Monday, with most of the U.S. community off to celebrate Columbus Day. In Japan, Yokota Air Base — headquarters of USFJ — remained at its lowest force-protection status.

Commander, Naval Forces Japan and U.S. 7th Fleet reiterated the readiness of the forward-deployed forces, but did not speculate on how the test would affect shore or fleet sailors and their families.

It has not prompted a change in force-protection status on CNFJ installations, said CNFJ spokesman Cmdr. David Waterman.

U.S. 7th Fleet does not discuss ship movements or operational deployments as a matter of policy, said 7th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Ike Skelton. However, they are aware of the reports coming out of North Korea, he said.

“Part of our forward presence is being able to rapidly respond to what our seat of government asks of us,” Skelton said.

U.S. servicemembers and civilians on bases in South Korea and Japan had varied reactions to reports of the nuclear test.

“I’m wowed,” said Spc. Shuntwayne Osborne, of the 61st Maintenance Company at the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division’s Camp Red Cloud. “Do they think about what they’re doing before they actually do it? They could start a whole new war. Why? Because they want some attention?”

Some soldiers and media pundits have speculated that with all the other conflicts going on in the world, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il wants his share of the world spotlight.

That said, soldiers agreed that detonating a nuclear weapon was no way to go about it.

“You want attention? Kill yourself,” said Sgt. Greg Kerr of 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery at Camp Casey. “They’ll have a funeral for him and he’ll get lots of attention for a few months.”

Said Pvt. Jennifer Mims, of the 61st Maintenance Company at Camp Stanley in South Korea: “They were going to slip up and do something stupid someday.”

In Japan, Air Force retiree Henry Ritton said he doesn’t think North Korea realizes the ramifications of conducting a nuclear weapon test.

“Their allies, Russia and China, are even opposed to the test,” he said.

Tech. Sgt. Harry Herndon, with U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific-Asia, said being stationed at Yokota, “in such close proximity to North Korea, the situation really hits close to home.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Marlo Ogoy, who is stationed at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, took the news in stride.

“The missile tests that they had earlier this year were a total failure, so I’m not too worried about these tests,” he said. “However, the threat is still there, so we should be careful.”

Duane Haralson, a senior airman with the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Yokota, said he wasn’t all that concerned about reports of the test.

“I just PCS’d here from Korea, so being in Japan isn’t a big deal,” he said. “Worrying about it won’t help anything; we should just let our government and the diplomats take care of the situation.

“The North Korean government is crazy and just wants attention,” he added.

Erik Slavin, Allison Batdorff, Bryce Dubee and Thomas P. Skeen contributed to this report

North Korea nuclear timeline

1993 North Korea shocks world by saying it will quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, later suspends its withdrawal.

1994 North Korea, United States sign agreement in Geneva, the North pledges to freeze, eventually dismantle, nuclear weapons program in exchange for help building two power-producing nuclear reactors.

Sept. 17, 1999 President Clinton agrees to first major easing of economic sanctions against North Korea.

July 2000 North Korea threatens to restart nuclear program if Washington does not compensate for loss of electricity due to delays in building power plants.

July 2001 U.S. State Department reports North Korea is developing a long-range missile.

December 2001 President Bush warns North Korea will be “held accountable” if they develop weapons of mass destruction.

Jan. 29, 2002 Bush labels North Korea, Iran and Iraq an “axis of evil.”

Nov. 11, 2002 U.S., key Asian allies halt oil supplies to the North promised in 1994.

Jan. 10, 2003 North Korea says it will withdraw from Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

April 24, 2003 North Korea says it has nuclear weapons and may test, export or use them depending on U.S. actions, Washington says.

Aug. 27-29, 2003 North Korea joins first round of six-nation nuclear talks in Beijing.

Feb. 10, 2005 North Korea announces it has nuclear weapons.

Sept. 15, 2005 U.S. blacklists a Macau-based bank for alleged involvement in North Korea’s illicit activity such as money laundering and counterfeiting, leads the bank to freeze North Korean assets.

Sept. 19, 2005 North Korea pledges to dismantle nuclear programs in exchange for pledges of energy assistance; U.S. pledges not to invade and to respect North’s sovereignty in an agreement ending talks.

Jan. 3, 2006 North Korea says it won’t return to talks unless the U.S. lifts financial restrictions imposed for its alleged currency counterfeiting and other illegal activities.

July 5 North Korea launches seven missiles into the Sea of Japan, including a long-range Taepodong-2, drawing international condemnation and later a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning it.

Oct. 3 North Korea says it will conduct a nuclear test in the face of what it claimed was “the U.S. extreme threat of a nuclear war.”

Oct. 9 North Korea says it has conducted its first-ever nuclear test.

From The Associated Press

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