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North Korea's third nuke test sends ripples throughout world

13 February, 2013

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PYONGYANG: Defying UN warnings, North Korea on Tuesday conducted its third nuclear test in the remote, snowy northeast area, taking a crucial step toward its goal of building a bomb small enough to be fitted on a missile capable of striking the US.

North Korea said the atomic test was merely its 'first response' to what it called US threats, and said it will continue with unspecified 'second and third measures of greater intensity' if Washington maintains its hostility.

The underground test, which set off powerful seismic waves, drew immediate condemnation from Washington, the UN and others. Even its only major ally, China, summoned the North's ambassador for a dressing-down.

North Korea claimed the device was smaller than in previous tests while Seoul said it likely produced a bigger explosion.The test was a defiant response to UN orders to shut down atomic activity or face more sanctions and international isolation. It will likely draw more sanctions from the US and other countries at a time when North Korea is trying to rebuild its moribund economy and expand its engagement with the outside world.

Several UN resolutions bar North Korea from conducting nuclear or missile tests because the UN Security Council considers Pyongyang a would-be proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and its nuclear testing a threat to international peace and stability. North Korea dismisses that as a double standard, and claims the right to build nuclear weapons as a defence against the US, which has been seen as enemy No. 1 since the 1950-53 Korean War. The US stations more than 28,000 troops in South Korea to protect its ally.

Tuesday's test is North Korea's first since young leader Kim Jong Un took power of a country long estranged from the West. The test will likely be portrayed in North Korea as a strong move to defend the nation against foreign aggression, particularly from the US.

"The test was conducted in a safe and perfect way on a high level, with the use of a smaller and light A-bomb, unlike the previous ones, yet with great explosive power," North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said, confirming speculation that seismic activity near Kilju around midday was a nuclear test.

North Korea was punished by more UN sanctions after a December launch of a rocket that the UN and Washington called a cover for a banned missile test. Pyongyang said it was a peaceful, and successful, bid to send a satellite into space.

The timing of the test is significant. It came hours before Obama's speech and only days before the Saturday birthday of Kim Jong Un's father, the late leader Kim Jong Il, whose memory North Korean propaganda has repeatedly linked to the country's nuclear ambitions.

This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, and in late February South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye will be inaugurated.

In Pyongyang, where it was snowing on Tuesday, North Koreans gathered around televisions to watch a 3pm TV broadcast announcing the nuclear test.The National Intelligence Service in Seoul told lawmakers that North Korea may conduct an additional nuclear test and test-launch a ballistic missile in response to UN talks about imposing more sanctions, according to the office of South Korean lawmaker Jung Chung-rae, who attended the private meeting.

Monitoring stations in South Korea detected an earthquake in the North with a magnitude of 4.9 and the South's Defense Ministry said that corresponds to an estimated explosive yield of 6-7 kilotons.

Pakistan regretted the underground nuclear test conducted by North Korea. A Foreign Office spokesman said Pakistan believes that all countries should comply with their respective international obligations.

"Pakistan supports a nuclear weapon-free Korean Peninsula as agreed by all parties in the Framework Agreement of 1994 and reaffirms its support for the Six-Party Talks process," he said.

President Barack Obama called North Korea's latest nuclear test a 'highly provocative act' that threatens US security and international peace."The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community," Obama said in a statement. "The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies," he said.

In a statement, the director of US National Intelligence estimated the explosive yield at 'approximately several kilotons'. "The president will say that the only way North Korea will rejoin the world community is if they stop these threats and live up to their international obligations,'' said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

Britain strongly condemned North Korea's announcement that it has staged its most powerful nuclear test and called for a 'robust response' from the UN Security Council."The UK will begin urgent consultations with Security Council partners calling for a robust response to this latest development," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

"North Korea has a choice to make: it can either engage constructively with the international community, cease developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and return to negotiations, or face increasing isolation and further action by the Security Council and the international community."

China's foreign minister called North Korea's ambassador in for a dressing-down Tuesday and demanded his country's cease making further threats, in a show of Beijing's displeasure over its erstwhile ally's latest nuclear test.

Yang Jiechi delivered a 'stern representation' to Ji Jae Ryong and expressed China's 'strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition' to Tuesday's test, the ministry said in a statement posted to its website.

Yang reiterated China's desire for peace and stability on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and said issues should be resolved within the framework of long-stalled denuclearisation talks involving North Korea, China, the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

"We strongly urge the DPRK (North Korea) to honour its commitment to denuclearisation, and not to take any actions which might worsen the situation," the foreign ministry said.

"The Chinese government calls on all parties to respond calmly, solve the problem of denuclearisation of the peninsula through dialogue and consultation within the framework of the six-party talks," it said.Sanctions-hit Iran called for the destruction of all atomic weapons in the world after North Korea announced that it had staged its most powerful nuclear test yet.

"We need to come to the point where no country has any nuclear weapons and at the same time all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms need to be destroyed," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said. "At the same all countries should have the right to make use of nuclear activities for peaceful purposes," Mehmanparast said.

"For such a world to exist those who are the front runners in producing the nuclear ... who are proud of their nuclear stockpiles … who upgrade them and allocate budgets to maintain them, need to be the first people to disarm so that no country would pursue these weapons," Mehmanparast said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he is 'gravely concerned about the negative impact of this deeply destabilising act as the UN Security Council prepared to hold an emergency session in New York.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he expected the UN Security Council to agree on "an adequate response" to North Korea's controversial nuclear test."I know that the UN Security Council will be discussing this issue in the next few hours and (will) make relevant agreements and decisions on that," he said via a translator on a visit to Pretoria.

"Such actions that are worth condemnation require an adequate response," he said. NATO's governing body is harshly criticising North Korea's recent nuclear test, calling it 'irresponsible' and a flagrant violation of UN Security council actions.

"This irresponsible act, along with the December missile launch, poses a grave threat to international peace, security and stability," said a statement from the North Atlantic Council. Israel on Tuesday condemned North Korea's latest nuclear test, saying the world must send 'a clear message' to Pyongyang that such activities were unacceptable, a foreign ministry spokesman said.


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