North Korea confirmed on Tuesday it has successfully conducted a third nuclear test, saying it used a miniaturized device that had a greater explosive force than previous tests, the North's KCNA official news agency said.
"It was confirmed that the nuclear test that was carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment," KCNA said.
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The announcement followed reports in South Korea to that effect, which were made after an earthquake deemed "unnatural" by geophysics monitoring agencies worldwide.
The test was condemned by the UK and Russia. US President Barack Obama condemned the test, saying it "poses threat to the US and international peace and security."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned North Korea's nuclear test, saying it was a "clear and grave violation" of UN Security Council resolutions. The UN Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting over the test.
One Western diplomat said he hoped the council would approve an initial statement condemning the nuclear test, and begin work on a more comprehensive council reaction. Getting approval on a council resolution, however, could take weeks.
Test's area (Photo: ISIS)
An international nuclear test monitoring agency said on Tuesday an unusual seismic event detected in North Korea showed "clear explosion-like characteristics."
"The event shows clear explosion-like characteristics and its location is roughly congruent with the 2006 and 2009 DPRK nuclear tests," said Tibor Tóth, the executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization. The DPRK refers to North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"If confirmed as a nuclear test, this act would constitute a clear threat to international peace and security, and challenges efforts made to strengthen global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, in particular by ending nuclear testing," Tóth said.
The South Korean Defense Ministry, which raised its military alert level after the quake, said it was trying to determine whether it was a test. Nuclear blasts can create tremors but they are distinct from those caused by natural earthquakes.
S.Korean report of the 'earthquake' (Photo: Reuters)
Kim Min-seok, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman, told reporters that North Korea informed China and the United States of its plans to conduct a nuclear test. It was not clear when Pyongyang told Beijing and Washington.
Japan said it will consider its own sanctions against North Korea: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he had ordered his government to "consider every possible way to address this issue, including our own sanctions, while cooperating with other countries."
The US Geological Survey as well as earthquake monitoring stations in South Korea detected an earthquake just north of a site where North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in 2009, according to the government-funded Korea Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources.
"There is a high possibility that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test," said Chi Heoncheol, an earthquake specialist at the institute. Chi said a magnitude 3.9 magnitude earthquake and a magnitude 4.5 earthquake were detected in the North's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
South Korean, US and Japanese seismic monitoring agencies put the magnitude of Tuesday's quake at 4.7, 4.9 and 5.2 respectively.
'Unnatural seismic event' (Photo: Reuters)
"We think it is possible it came about as a result of a nuclear test by North Korea from looking at past cases," Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference Tuesday, noting that they were still gathering information.
"A natural earthquake normally starts with a smaller tremor followed by a larger one. This quake's strength was the same throughout," according to Yosuke Igarashi, an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency. He declined to elaborate on the length of the quake or other details, saying the agency was studying the data.
The United States and its allies have been on edge since North Korea said last month it will conduct its third nuclear test to protest toughened sanctions over a December rocket launch that the UN called a cover for a banned missile test.
North Korea's politburo vowed to continue firing "powerful long-range rockets," but a statement by state media Tuesday made no mention of a nuclear test.
North Korea's National Defense Commission said Jan. 23 that the United States was its prime target for a nuclear test and long-range rocket launches. North Korea accuses Washington of leading the push to punish Pyongyang for its December rocket launch.
Last October, a spokesman from the commission told state media that the country had built a missile capable of striking the United States, but did not provide further details. A missile featured in an April 2012 military parade appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, but its authenticity has not been verified by foreign experts.
The test may also spell China's growing frustration with Pyongyang.
Beijing signaled its unhappiness earlier by agreeing to tightened UN sanctions after North Korea launched a rocket in December, surprising China watchers with its unusually tough line, which prompted harsh criticism from Pyongyang.
Reuters contributed to this report
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