North Korea Says Nuclear Test Successful
Monday, October 9, 2006; 2:06 AM
SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea said Monday it had performed its first nuclear weapons test, an underground explosion that defied international warnings but was hailed by the communist nation as a "great leap forward" for its people.
The reported test drew harsh rebuke from North Korea's neighbors. The U.N. Security Council is expected to discuss the North Korean issue on Monday, and the United States and Japan are likely to press for a resolution imposing additional sanctions on Pyongyang.
The U.S. Geological Survey said it had recorded a magnitude-4.2 seismic event in northeastern North Korea. Australia and South Korea also said there was seismic confirmation that pointed to a nuclear test.
However, Japan said it could not immediately confirm the test.
North Korea's nuclear test was equivalent to 550 tons of TNT, a state-run South Korean geological institute said. That is relatively small compared to the bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima, which was equivalent to 12,500 tons of TNT.
Although North Korea has long claimed it had the capability to produce a bomb, the reported test Monday, if confirmed, would be the first proof of its membership in a small club of nuclear-armed nations. That would dramatically alter the strategic balance of power in the region and seriously undermine global anti-proliferation efforts.
The test Monday morning came a day after the ninth anniversary of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as head of the Korean Workers' Party. Tuesday will be the 61st anniversary of the party's founding.
The North warned last week it would conduct a nuclear test, sparking frantic diplomatic efforts to head it off.
Condemnation of North Korea from world powers came swiftly after the test was announced.
"A North Korean nuclear test would constitute a provocative act in defiance of the will of the international commuity and of our call to refrain from actions that would aggravate tensions in Northeast Asia," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
"We expect the U.N. Security Council to take immediate actions to respond to this unprovoked act," he said. "The United States is closely monitoring the situation and reaffirms its commitment to protect and defend our allies in the region."
China, the North's closest ally, said Beijing "resolutely opposes" the test and hopes Pyongyang will return to the six-party nuclear disarmament talks.