North Korea Says it Conducted New, More Powerful Nuclear Test
By Jethro Mullen
North Korea said Tuesday that it had conducted a new, more powerful underground nuclear test using more sophisticated technology, jolting the already fragile security situation in Northeast Asia.
The test probably took place near P’unggye and yielded “several kilotons,” according to assessments cited by the U.S. director of national intelligence. It drew condemnation from around the globe and prompted an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday morning.
It is the first nuclear test carried out under the North’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, who appears to be sticking closely to his father’s policy of building up the isolated state’s military deterrent to keep its foes at bay, shrugging off the resulting international condemnation and sanctions.
Although Pyongyang had announced plans for the test in recent, vitriolic statements, its decision to go ahead with it provided a stark reminder of a seemingly intractable foreign policy challenge for President Barack Obama ahead of his State of the Union address later Tuesday.
The test was designed “to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S.,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said, referring to new U.S.-led sanctions on Pyongyang after the recent launch of a long-range rocket.
“This nuclear test is our first measure, which displayed our maximum restraint,” KCNA said. “If the U.S. continues with their hostility and complicates the situation, it would be inevitable to continuously conduct a stronger second or third measure.”
Tuesday’s nuclear test, which follows previous detonations by the North in 2006 and 2009, had greater explosive force and involved the use of a smaller, lighter device, KCNA reported.
North Korea’s nuclear program is shrouded in secrecy, so it’s almost impossible to independently verify many of the details of the test. But its claims play into fears among the United States and its allies that Pyongyang is moving closer to the kind of miniaturized nuclear device that it can mount on a long-range missile.
The United States will try to determine if North Korea has tested a uranium weapon for the first time, a senior White House official said. The first two were plutonium bombs.
Despite the North’s claims of progress Tuesday, analysts say they believe it is still years away from having the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile.
“This test isn’t going to do that in and of itself, but it is a significant step forward,” said Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s U.S.-China Institute.
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