Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea finally Pops off a Nuke Huh? Nice.

Outcry at N Korea 'nuclear test'
North Korea's claim that it has successfully tested a nuclear weapon has sparked international condemnation.

The White House called for a swift response from the UN Security Council, calling Pyongyang's move "provocative".

Japan and South Korea also condemned the test and even Pyongyang's closest ally China expressed its "resolute opposition", calling the move "brazen".

Diplomats say an emergency Security Council meeting on the issue is taking place in New York.

The underground test, which South Korean media said took place in Gilju in Hamgyong province at 1036 (0136 GMT), has still to be confirmed.

Believed to have 'handful' of nuclear weapons
But not thought to have any small enough to put in a missile
Could try dropping from plane, though world watching closely

But both the US and Japan said they had detected seismic waves. Russia said it was "100% certain" a nuclear test had occurred.

The size of the bomb is uncertain. South Korean reports put it as low as 550 tons of destructive power but Russia said it was between five and 15 kilotons. The 1945 Hiroshima bomb was 12.5-15 kilotons.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says North Korea's claimed test does not necessarily mean it has a fully-fledged nuclear bomb or warhead that it can deliver to a target.


The US led calls for a swift UN response. White House spokesman Tony Snow said: "We expect the UN Security Council to take immediate actions to respond to this unprovoked act."

Japan's foreign ministry said US President George W Bush and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had spoken by telephone and agreed there should be "decisive UN action".

Mr Abe, currently visiting Seoul, earlier called the claimed test "unpardonable".

The region was "entering a new, dangerous nuclear age", Mr Abe said.

We expect the UN Security Council to take immediate actions to respond to this unprovoked act
Tony Snow
White House spokesman

He said Japan and the US would step up co-operation on the missile defence system they began after a North Korean missile test in 1998.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said it would be "difficult" to maintain his country's policy of engagement with the North.

He feared the move could "spark a nuclear arms build-up in other countries", although Japan quickly said it would maintain its ban on nuclear weapons.

The South Korean military - which has been put on a heightened state of alert - had the capability to cope with any North Korean provocation, Mr Roh said.

The head of the South's intelligence service told lawmakers it had detected more movement at a North Korean test site and he could not rule out further nuclear tests.

In Seoul, about 500 protesters rallied against the claimed test, burning a portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

South Korea has also suspended a scheduled aid shipment of concrete to North Korea.

The North has relied on international help to feed its 23 million people for more than a decade and there are concerns the latest move could further compromise its ability to feed its most vulnerable people.

In an unusually strong statement against its ally, China said the claimed test "defied the universal opposition of international society".

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Beijing says China's statement is an indication of how strongly it is angered by North Korea's action, although Beijing will still be loath to support tougher sanctions against Pyongyang.

'Historic event'

When it announced the test, the North's KCNA media agency described it as an "historic event that brought happiness to our military and people".

Sept 2005: At first hailed as a breakthrough, North Korea agrees to give up nuclear activities
Next day, N Korea says it will not scrap its activities unless it gets a civilian nuclear reactor
US imposes financial sanctions on N Korea businesses
July 2006: N Korea test-fires seven missiles
UN Security Council votes to impose sanctions over the tests
Oct 2006: N Korea claims to have carried out nuclear test

It said the test would maintain "peace and stability" in the region and was "a great leap forward in the building of a great prosperous, powerful socialist nation". There was no radiation leak, it said.

The development comes three days after the UN Security Council agreed on a formal statement urging North Korea to cancel any planned nuclear test and return to disarmament talks.

Pyongyang pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and has refused for a year to attend talks aimed at ending its nuclear ambitions.

North Korea's official media has long warned that the US was preparing to attack and developing a nuclear capability was the only way to prevent this.

If confirmed, the test would make North Korea the ninth country known to have nuclear weapons.

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