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North Korea Admits to Carrying Out Third Nuclear Test

Mapping Nuclear Test
An official points to North Korea’s Kilju, where the North conducted a nuclear test, on a map on a screen at the Korea Meteorological Agency in Seoul on Feb. 12. Photo by Lee Ji-Eun/Yonhap/Reuters.

By Geoffrey Cain and Faine Greenwood of GlobalPost

SEOUL, South Korea | North Korea has admitted carrying out a third nuclear test, hours after U.S. seismologists detected a 4.9-magnitude earthquake in the hermit kingdom.

The heightened seismic activity came at 11:57 a.m. near the Chinese border. The South Korean Defense Ministry estimates the detonated bomb to have weighed six to eight kilotons.

According to monitors at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna, the resulting blast was twice as powerful as North Korea’s last nuclear test in 2009.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said the latest test was “only the first action,” and threatened more could follow.

“If the U.S. further complicates the situation with continued hostility, we will be left with no choice but to take even stronger second or third rounds of action,” the ministry announced in a statement.

Seoul Protest Over Test
An activist from an anti-North Korea civic group burns a portrait of North’s leader Kim Jong-un during a rally against North Korea’s nuclear test near the U.S. Embassy in central Seoul on Feb. 12. Photo by Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak immediately convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, and the United Nations Security Council met in New York on the matter Tuesday morning.

International condemnation of the test poured in — even from China, North Korea’s most powerful friend. U.S. President Obama called for “swift and credible action by the international community,” while China urged “all parties to respond calmly, solve the problem of denuclearization of the peninsula through dialogue and consultation in the framework of the six-party talks,” according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry.

South Korea immediately condemned the test as a violation of U.N. resolutions, and as an “unacceptable threat,” wrote the Yonhap News Agency.

On the ground, however, most Koreans carried on with their day without giving much thought to the blast.

Checking Border Fences
South Korean soldiers check military fences as they patrol near the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea, in Paju, north of Seoul on Feb. 12. Photo by Lee Jae-Won/Reuters.

U.S. seismologists registered a 4.9-magnitude quake Tuesday morning that appeared to be of human origin, immediately leading to suspicions that North Korea had made good on its recent threats.

The country publicly confirmed that the test took place via a statement from the state-run KCNA news agency.

Pyongyang officials claimed that the nuclear device was “miniaturized” and that the test was conducted without “any adverse effect to the surrounding ecological environment.”

North Korea had been sending mixed messages about the impending test, claiming in the Korea Herald earlier in the month that “The U.S. and hostile forces jumped to conclusions that the republic is planning the third nuclear test, citing their hypothesis and argument,” according to the Tongil Sinbo propaganda weekly.

On Monday, the U.S. had imposed fresh sanctions on several countries “pursuant to the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act,” the State Department said.

Geoffrey Cain contributed to this report from Seoul. This story first appeared on the GlobalPost website.

President Obama issued a statement shortly after the test, which reads in part:

“These provocations do not make North Korea more secure. Far from achieving its stated goal of becoming a strong and prosperous nation, North Korea has instead increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its ill-advised pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.”

Read his full statement on the White House’s website.

Related Coverage:

Dec. 12, 2012: Though Kim Jong-Il passed away in December 2011, his son Kim Jong Un continues his father’s policies with the latest rocket launch. Margaret Warner talks to David Wright of Union of Concerned Scientists and Han Park of University of Georgia about the politics and consequences for the launch, including proliferation concerns:

April 13, 2012: North Korea’s much-hyped long-range missile broke apart early Friday causing much humiliation for the country’s new leader, Kim Jong-un. Margaret Warner and guests discuss what’s in store for Kim and the rogue nation’s hopes of expanding its military capability in the face of increasing international condemnation:

April 11, 2012: North Korea, one of the world’s most secretive and belligerent regimes, is gearing up to launch a missile topped with what it says is a communication satellite. Judy Woodruff and John Isaacs of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation discuss the regime’s hopes of an image boost and other possible launch outcomes:

Feb. 29, 2012: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said North Korea’s agreement to suspend its nuclear program in exchange for U.S. food aid was “a modest first step in the right direction.” Judy Woodruff, The Korea Society’s Donald Gregg and Georgetown University’s Balbina Hwang discuss the implications for multinational disarmament talks:

Oct. 13, 2011: Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Robert Carlin of Stanford University give their views on what’s worked and hasn’t worked in the Obama administration’s handling of North Korea:

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