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World Leaders Respond to North Korea’s Claim of Nuclear Test

North Korea said on Monday it conducted a successful nuclear weapons test, forcing an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. Experts discuss the alleged test, proposed responses and implications for the region.

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  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    North Korea used state television today to tell the world it conducted its first nuclear test. Reading a government statement, the announcer called it a "historic event" and a "great leap forward" in the building of a "great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation."

    Several world geological agencies confirmed that a tremor originated about 240 miles northeast of the capital, Pyongyang. Condemnation was swift from world leaders.

    In Washington, President Bush was warned the test was imminent moments before it went forward late last night. This morning, he spoke to reporters at the White House.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: The United States condemns this provocative act. Once again, North Korea has defied the will of the international community. And the international community will respond.

    The North Korean regime remains one of the world's leading proliferator of missile technology, including transfers to Iran and Syria. The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable the consequences of such action.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Russian President Vladimir Putin also denounced North Korea's action and appealed for an international response.

    VLADIMIR PUTIN, President of Russia (through translator): It doesn't just concern North Korea. Enormous damage has been done to the process of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the world. I hope North Korea will return to the negotiating process.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The North's neighbors, including South Korea, China and Japan, expressed worry the regional balance of power would be disrupted by a new nuclear state. China, a long-time ally of North Korea, called their test a "brazen act" and said the North "defied the universal opposition of international society."

    South Korea immediately increased military readiness along the heavily armed border, and its president, Roh Moo-Hyun, appealed for immediate action by the U.N. Security Council.

  • ROH MOO-HYUN, President, South Korea (through translator):

    It is better for the government to face this crisis full-on and share opinions internally and externally, rather than cope with it urgently and arbitrarily. South Korea will seek a stern yet calm and strategically coordinated measure to deal with the nuclear crisis.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Roh also said the development would make it more difficult for the South to pursue reconciliation talks with the North.

    In Seoul, protesters gathered this evening for a candlelight vigil. They also burned pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was in South Korea for a summit, said the test marked a new era in Asia.

  • SHINZO ABE, Prime Minister, Japan (through translator):

    The development and possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea will in a major way transform the security environment in North Asia, and we will be entering a new, dangerous age.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    North Korea long has claimed it had the capability to produce a nuclear bomb. In 2003, it withdrew from the non-proliferation treaty after expelling international inspectors. The North also has refused to return to six-party talks with the U.S., Russia, China, South Korea and Japan on its weapons program. It abandoned them last year.

    Instead, North Korea demanded bilateral talks with the U.S. And last July, it again defied international pressure and tested seven missiles, similar to this one launched in 1998. In New York, members of the U.N. Security Council met in a closed emergency session to consider efforts to bring North Korea back to six-party talks.

    U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said the U.S. is seeking sanctions to curb North Korea's import and export of weapons components.

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