Wednesday 26 October 2016

North Korea's nuclear weapons test 'maniacal recklessness'

Chris Graham in Tokyo

Published 10/09/2016 | 02:30

Kim Jong Un has overseen a robust increase in the number and kinds of missiles tested this year (AP)
Kim Jong Un has overseen a robust increase in the number and kinds of missiles tested this year (AP)

North Korea says it now has the power to mount a nuclear warhead on ballistic missiles that could be aimed at its enemies, after conducting its biggest nuclear test yet, an explosion compared to the Hiroshima blast.

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The test, the country's fifth, was condemned by South Korea as "maniacal recklessness" and prompted the US to warn of "serious consequences".

The test took place at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, in the north-east of the country, at around 9:30am as North Korea marked the 68th anniversary of the founding of the regime. Seismic monitors detected the blast immediately, recording it as a magnitude-five earthquake.

"The blast is believed to have been about 10 kilotons, the most powerful by the North so far", officials of the Defence Ministry in South Korea told Yonhap News. The previous test had a yield of between 6 and 9 kilotons.

North Korean state media confirmed it had carried out a nuclear test later in the day, with the Korea Central News Agency claiming the test "finally examined and confirmed the structure and specific features of movement of [a] nuclear warhead that has been standardised to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets.

"The standardisation of the nuclear warhead will enable the DPRK to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power," KCNA added.

"This has definitely put on a higher level the DPRK's technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets."

International condemnation of the test was swift, with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, in Laos after a summit of Asian leaders, saying Kim was showing "maniacal recklessness" in completely ignoring the world's call to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Hwang Kyo-ahn, the South Korea prime minister, called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.

"The nuclear test conducted by the North is a violent action against the international goal of denuclearisation," he said.

"Along with the international community, the government strongly condemns North Korea's grave provocation," added Mr Hwang, who chaired the meeting in the place of Ms Park.

US President Barack Obama said any provocative actions by North Korea would have "serious consequences" .

Just hours before the nuclear test, members of the regional forum adopted a statement calling on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in a manner that is "complete, verifiable and irreversible".

"North Korea will only get stronger international sanctions as well as diplomatic isolation from nuclear provocations," Mr Hwang said.

China, North Korea's only major ally, said it was resolutely opposed to the test and urged Pyongyang to stop taking any actions that would worsen the situation. It said it would lodge a protest with the North Korean embassy in Beijing.

In Tokyo, Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, vowed to impose further sanctions on Pyongyang for defying international warnings over its nuclear and missile programmes.

"We simply cannot tolerate that North Korea went ahead with a nuclear test," Mr Abe said in a statement.

He added that Tokyo is working closely with the US and South Korea to handle the situation. Japan has already called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to consider a unified response.

Chinese state media described the attack as "regrettable" and "another reckless act of Pyongyang".

"The blast is full of symbolism as it took place on the 68th anniversary of the country's founding," the Xinhua news agency reported.

"Yet, ironically, it has dealt another heavy blow to the foundations of regional security, its own security included.

The test also comes three days after the United Nations Security Council condemned the launch on Monday of three ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan. The emergency meeting of the council in New York was the ninth statement so far this year against North Korea's missile tests, which are in breach of previous UN resolutions.

Pyongyang reacted furiously to the UN statement, with state media carrying a reply from the foreign ministry declaring, "The DPRK categorically rejects this as an intolerable act of encroaching upon its dignity, right to existence, sovereignty and right to self-defence.

"The more viciously the UN Security Council finds fault with the DPRK's legitimate measures for self-defence by siding with the US, arch-criminal harassing peace and security on the Korean peninsula, the more glaringly it will reveal its true colours as an unfair, good-for-nothing entity before the international community."

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