Conflict & Justice

North Korea detonates bomb in 3rd nuclear test (LIVE BLOG)



A North Korean soldier patrols along the Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju across from the Chinese city of Dandong, after the country conducted its third nuclear test on Feb. 12.




UPDATE: 2/12/13 5:15 PM ET

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UPDATE: 2/12/13 5:00 PM ET

Chinese netizens amused by 'naughty' Kim

While the Chinese government has voiced its opposition to the North Korea nuclear test, the Chinese public viewed the proceedings with a decidedly lighter air.

Foreign Policy magazine wrote:

"He's so naughty!" chided one web user, while another suggested that the resulting earthquake came from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un eating too much and falling on his posterior.

It wasn't the first time Kim had been the butt of jokes in China. After North Korea's successful missile launch on Dec. 12, many expressed joy and pride on behalf of the North Korean masses. "The brigade members plowing the hills of Seipo County were so inspired by the successful launch of the second Earth observation satellite that they opened up thousands of hectares of wasteland in just a few days," one message from a popular satirist nicknamed Miss Choi in Pyongyang read, pretending to be oblivious to North Korea's failed rocket launch test in April. "Big Brother [China], please step up your effort, or we will surpass you!"

Not everyone was in on the joke. A journalist at China's independent-minded newspaper Southern Weekly said, "Isn't laughing at North Korea like the pot calling the kettle black?"

Read the whole story here.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 3:24 PM ET

The Kim dynasty in 2013

The Feb. 12, 2013 nuclear test dashed any remaining hopes for change under Kim Jong Un. What does that mean for people unlucky enough to be born in North Korea?

GlobalPost's in-depth series, "Next of Kim," takes a look.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 3:15 PM ET

Plutonium v. Uranium

The Washington Post wrote that the biggest question coming out of North Korea's nuclear test is whether the country used plutonium or uranium as its nuclear material. There are four reasons, said The Post, that the answer to that question matters:

1. North Korea would have two ways to build a bomb, which means a potentially larger arsenal.

2. The country has a natural supply of uranium and can enrich to bomb-making levels in secret; plutonium is limited and is much tougher to hide. So its weaponized uranium would be tougher to keep track of and easier to make in larger quantities.

3. Iran uses uranium in its nuclear program, so North Korea could share research and lessons from the nuclear test with Tehran.

4. Uranium is easier to ship abroad, meaning North Korea could more easily sell it.

Read more about the importance of answering that question here.

The Institute for Science and International Security commented on the other significant detail of this nuclear test: North Korea's claims about its miniaturization capability.

It should not come as a surprise to the international community that North Korea may now have the capability to explode a miniaturized nuclear device. ISIS (and key members of the U.S. intelligence community) have assessed for some time that North Korea likely has the capability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon for its 800 mile range Nodong missile. Although more information is needed to make a sound assessment, this test could, as North Korea has stated, demonstrate this capability.

Read the full report here.

Check out more about nuclear sites in North Korea from the BBC:

UPDATE: 2/12/13 2:55 PM ET

Obama talks to South Korean president

President Obama spoke to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to "consult and coordinate" their response to North Korea's nuclear test, the White House said in a statement.

Obama and Lee "condemned this highly provocative violation of North Korea’s international obligations," the statement said.

They agreed to work closely together, including at the United Nations Security Council, to seek a range of measures aimed at impeding North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and reducing the risk of proliferation. President Obama unequivocally reaffirmed that the United States remains steadfast in its defense commitments to the Republic of Korea, including the extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 2:40 PM ET

State Dept: North Korea told US a test was coming

North Korea warned the US of its upcoming nuclear test prior to Tuesday, but had not indicated when the test would take place, the US State Department said this afternoon.

"The DPRK did inform us at the State Department of their intention to conduct a nuclear test, without citing any specific timing," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Also on Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told reporters that the US is seeking "to augment the sanctions regime that is already quite strong."

In response, a reporter asked Rice: "With financial sanctions? Sanctions on the financial institutions? Anything more in significant action?"

She answered: "All of those categories are areas that we think are ripe for appropriate further action."

Read the full text of Rice's remarks here.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 2:15 PM ET

China is 'strongly dissatisfied'

North Korea’s nuclear test may pose the greatest challenge to its cautious ally China, where many still see their impoverished Stalinist neighbor as a buffer against Western countries.

It’s the first major foreign policy test for Xi Jinping, the new head of the Communist Party in China, which had urged North Korea not to go ahead with its plans.

The initial reaction, posted on a Foreign Ministry website, was muted. It said the Chinese government expressed “staunch opposition” to the test and “strongly urges” North Korea to hold its promise to abandon its nuclear program.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China was "strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed" to the test and urged North Korea to "stop any rhetoric or acts that could worsen situations and return to the right course of dialogue and consultation as soon as possible".

Yang later summoned North Korean ambassador Ji Jae Ryong to state China’s opposition to the test.

China observers are closely watching Xi’s response for early signs of his foreign policy. He’s said he wants Beijing and Washington to develop a “new type of relationship between two great powers.”

UPDATE: 2/12/13 1:35 PM ET

Israel condemns nuclear test, Iran calls for nuclear weapons-free world

GlobalPost's senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky reported from Jerusalem:

Iran said it “disapproves” of North Korea's nuclear test and called for a world without nuclear weapons.

Locked in its own bitter standoff with Western countries over suspicions it’s developing a secret nuclear weapons program, Tehran said all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms "should be destroyed."

"We need to come to the point where no country has any nuclear weapons," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters.

Iran strenuously denies accusations it’s developing nuclear weapons, saying it is interested only in civil nuclear energy. “All countries should have the right to make use of nuclear activities for peaceful purposes," Mehmanparast said.

Tehran was among a small handful of countries that congratulated North Korea on its successful launch of a satellite into earth orbit last December, but denied helping prepare the launch.

A 2011 UN sanctions report said Tehran and Pyongyang were suspected of sharing ballistic missile technology.

In Israel, the Foreign Ministry said it strongly condemned North Korea’s nuclear test, saying in a statement that it “joins the international community in expressing the grave danger that this act poses to regional stability and international peace and security.”

“These actions by the DPRK, in violation of its international obligations, must be met with a swift response by the international community,” the statement continued.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor also questioned Iran’s call to ban nuclear arms. “Iran's credibility in nuclear issues can only and exclusively be vouched for by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said in an interview. “Since that is not precisely the case, I refer any Iranian with ideas about nuclear disarmament to the IAEA."

He also said a New York Times story on Tuesday that reported Iran had converted some of its stockpiled enriched uranium into nuclear fuel may be old news. He said Defense Minister Ehud Barak had said two months ago that Iran had repurposed some of its enriched uranium for research uses, saying it had "taken them a bit further away from the red line" because it’s more difficult to refine nuclear fuel to weapons-grade purity.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 1:05 PM ET

Major embarrassment for Obama?

Whether it was intentional or not, North Korea's test happened on the eve of US President Obama's State of the Union speech. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told National Journal that North Korea's test would not alter Obama's nonproliferation message, but National Journal noted that it might be seen as a major embarrassment for Obama.

According to his advisers, Obama was set to make nonproliferation a key goal in his second term.

The New York Times wrote on Monday that Obama was expected to renew a commitment to disarmament which he made in a landmark speech in Prague in April 2009. He was expected to announce a draw down of the number of deployed strategic warheads, which currently numbers 1,700.

Obama, administration officials say, is unlikely to discuss specific numbers in the address, but White House officials are looking at a cut that would take the arsenal of deployed weapons to just above 1,000. Currently there are about 1,700, and the new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia that passed the Senate at the end of 2009 calls for a limit of roughly 1,550 by 2018.

National Journal noted that in the immediate aftermath of the test, White House officials have sought to play down the Times article, saying it exaggerated the Obama administration's willingness to go forward with the cuts.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 12:30 PM ET

What does North Korea's nuclear test reveal?

Agence France-Presse — North Korea's nuclear test opens a rare, limited window for expert evaluation of its atomic weapons program, with an added urgency lent by Pyongyang's claim to have detonated a "miniaturized" device.

Seismic monitors and "sniffer" planes capable of collecting radioactive evidence of Tuesday's test will provide the forensic material for analysts to try to determine the exact yield and nature of the underground explosion.

Pyongyang said the "high-level" test involved a "miniaturized and lighter atomic bomb" with a much greater yield than the plutonium devices it detonated in 2006 and 2009. Miniaturization is needed to fit a warhead on a missile.

South Korea's defense ministry said seismic data suggested the explosive yield was significantly higher than the two previous tests at six to seven kilotons.

One key question analysts will be looking to answer was whether the North has switched from plutonium to a new and self-sustaining nuclear weaponization program using uranium.

Judging the type of fissile material requires the detection and analysis of xenon gases produced in the atomic explosion.

"These aren't necessarily easy to find and, if the test was well contained, may not be found at all," said Paul Carroll, program director at the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation based in California.

"The miniaturization claim is provocative because that's exactly the technology we don't want them to have," Carroll said, adding that it was a very difficult claim to confirm or refute.

The same six-seven kiloton yield could equally be achieved with a small, efficient device or a very large, inefficient one, with seismic data unable to differentiate between the two, he said.

Proof that the North had mastered warhead miniaturization would be an alarming game changer -- especially given its successful rocket launch in December which marked a major step forward in ballistic prowess.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 12:15 PM ET

UN vows action on 'grave violation'

After their meeting this morning, the United Nations Security Council vowed to respond to North Korea's nuclear test.

 "The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this test, which is a grave violation of Security Council resolution 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009) and 2087 (2013), and therefore there continues to exist a clear threat to international peace and security."

The body said it will begin working immediately on a resolution containing "appropriate measures."

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement:

"The Secretary-General condemns the underground nuclear weapon test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) today. It is a clear and grave violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

"The Secretary-General is gravely concerned about the negative impact of this deeply destabilizing act on regional stability as well as the global efforts for nuclear non-proliferation."

UPDATE: 2/12/13 11:30 AM ET

NATO joins chorus of condemnation

BRUSSELS — NATO has condemned North Korea’s nuclear test "in the strongest terms" and called on Pyongyang to immediately bring such "provocative actions" to an end.

"This irresponsible act, along with the December missile launch, poses a grave threat to international and regional peace, security and stability," the alliance said in a statement.

Europe was united in its condemnation, holding out the threat of more sanctions through the UN.

President Francois Hollande said France would work to secure "firm action" from the UN Security Council in response. "North Korea must unconditionally abstain from any act that risks heightening tension in the Korean peninsula and impact on peace and international security," he said in a statement.

"The international community must respond with a clear stance to this fresh provocation," Germany's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Further sanctions against the regime in Pyongyang must be considered."

Poland's Foreign Minister Radislaw Sikorski was quoted as saying the North Korea test underscored the importance of developing anti-missile technology. He also suggested China should increase pressure on the DPRK regime.

"Without [China's] support, without the border open to trade and the movement of people, the regime [in North Korea] might not survive more than a few months,” Sikorski told Polish radio.

The European Union issued its own statement saying it would "work with key partners and the wider international community to build a firm and unified response aiming at demonstrating to the DPRK that there are consequences for its continued violations of UNSC Resolutions.” — Paul Ames, GlobalPost

UPDATE: 2/12/13 11:15 AM ET

Japan says North Korean nuclear test is 'totally unacceptable'

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called an emergency security meeting to discuss Japan’s response to North Korea’s nuclear test on Monday after the United States warned it was imminent.

Having already implemented a raft of bilateral and UN-led sanctions following previous North Korean rocket launches and nuclear tests, however, Tokyo’s options for further action seem fairly limited.

Abe joined other world leaders condemning the test. "The nuclear test by North Korea is totally unacceptable, as it constitutes a grave threat to Japan's security, represents a grave challenge to the international disarmament and non-proliferation regime centered on the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and seriously undermines the peace and security of Northeast Asia,” he said.

"I have ordered that we consider every possible way to address this issue, including our own sanctions, while co-operating with other countries,” he added.

Later on Tuesday, he said in a statement that Japan would tighten immigration controls for officials from a pro-Pyongyang association of Korean residents in Japan.

The top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said Tokyo was also considering additional financial measures against North Korea.

Japan introduced a range of sanctions against the North after its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, including a ban on all exports and imports, and on North Korean ships entering Japanese ports.

Tokyo considers itself among the countries most at risk from North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program.

A US ally in the region, Japan is still the target of bitter resentment among many Koreans on both sides of the demilitarized zone dividing North and South over its colonial rule of the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

In a meeting with Washington’s ambassador to Tokyo, John Roos, Abe vowed to work with the United States in pushing a new round of sanctions through the UN Security Council.

The test “threatens … peace and security not only for Japan but for the United States,” the Kyodo news agency reported Roos as saying.

A hawk who has represented the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents during the Cold War, Abe was elected prime minister in December, and vowed to take a tough stance against North Korea.

He’s expected to discuss the North’s nuclear program and Northeast Asian security during talks with president Obama in Washington next week. — Justin McCurry, GlobalPost

UPDATE: 2/12/13 10:40 AM ET

North Korea isn't sorry, and has the US in its sights

"This is the wrong step in the wrong direction," Tibor Toth, the executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, told Reuters. "This is a challenge to this norm observed by the international community of not carrying out nuclear weapons explosions."

Unverified estimates indicate that Tuesday's test may have been twice the size of a test by the Hermit Kingdom in 2009.

But Pyongyang is defiant, threatening "second and third measures of greater intensity" if the US doesn't soften what the North takes to be an aggressive stance.

Check out the Associated Press's comprehensive interactive graphics about North Korea's nuclear history and capability.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 9:50 AM ET

US estimates size of North Korea's tested bomb at 'several kilotons'

Agence France-Presse — US intelligence agencies believe North Korea "probably" conducted an underground nuclear test with a yield of several kilotons, the office of the Director of National Intelligence said Tuesday.

"The explosion yield was approximately several kilotons. Analysis of the event continues," the office said in a statement, confirming the blast had taken place in the area of North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

GlobalPost's Geoffrey Cain earlier reported from Seoul that the South Korean Defense Ministry estimated the detonated bomb to have measured six to eight kilotons.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 9:35 AM ET

What does nuclear bomb testing do to the planet?

Even bombs tested underground, as North Korea's was, can have serious impact on the environment.

National Geographic wrote last year:

"If tunnels are dug deeply and securely, radiation from a blast can be completely contained, said intelligence analyst John Pike, director of, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. If not, explosions can burst through the surface and release contaminants. Or the vaporization of rock in the blast can create subsurface cavities that in turn create surface craters.

"In some cases radiation can seep out slowly during the weeks after a test."

Read more of their report here.

Watch declassified video of US nuclear tests from 1958's "Operation Hardtack":

UPDATE: 2/12/13 9:16 AM ET

Koreas may be the latest joiners to drone warfare

News of North Korea's third nuclear weapons test is coupled Tuesday with a much subtler arms escalation — the reported beginnings of drone development in North and South Korea.

Last week news of a possible North Korean drone program broke, and Yonhap news agency reported Monday the South Korean military wants to develop drone helicopters.

"The military is considering using unmanned combat helicopters to destroy North Korea's military bases used for infiltration, including artillery bases and a naval base for air-cushioned vessels," an unnamed military source told Yonhap.

Read the rest of this report from GlobalPost's news desk.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 9:03 AM ET

UN Security Council meeting on North Korea's test

The UN Security Council was due to begin an emergency meeting at 9 a.m. to discuss its response to North Korea's nuclear test. As we wait for details to emerge from their session, here are some reports from the morning to help catch you up:

[View the story "North Korea conducts third nuclear test " on Storify]

UPDATE: 2/12/13 6:18 AM ET

Even China is angry

SEOUL, South Korea — After North Korea's test, South Korean president Lee Myung-bak immediately convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council. The United Nations Security Council is set to discuss the matter at a 9 a.m. meeting in New York on Tuesday.

International condemnation of the test poured in — even from China, North Korea's most powerful friend. US President Barack Obama called for "swift and credible action by the international community," while China urged "all parties to respond calmly," according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry.

South Korea immediately condemned the test as a violation of UN 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, GlobalPost's Geoffrey Cain reported. Read more from this report.

Other reactions from around the world:

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the test a "grave threat" to Japan's safety. The government convened a national security meeting and is contemplating imposing unilateral sanctions on North Korea, according to local media.

NATO said the test was an "irresponsible act" and a "grave threat to international and regional peace, security and stability."

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged North Korea to "abandon its nuclear arms program" and resume talks with other countries.

William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary, called for a "robust response" from the UN Security Council.

French President François Hollande said he would back "firm action" by the UN.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said all nuclear weapons should be destroyed, but commented that "all countries should have the right to make use of nuclear activities for peaceful purposes."

Read more about the world's reaction here.

UPDATE: 2/12/13 1:33 AM ET

North Korea detonates underground bomb in third nuclear test, threatens further action

North Korea has admitted carrying out a third nuclear test, hours after US 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 measured 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 US 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.

Read more from Geoffrey Cain in Seoul and GlobalPost's news desk.




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