US calls test ‘provocative’
NORTH KOREA faced a barrage of global condemnation and calls for harsh sanctions on Monday after it announced that it had set off an atomic weapon underground, a test that thrusts the secretive communist state into the elite club of nuclear-armed nations.
The explosion prompted worldwide concern. Members of the UN Security Council condemned North Korea's claim, demanding during an emergency meeting that it return to six-party talks on its weapons program, UN ambassadors said. Security Council experts planned to meet later in the day to discuss proposals submitted by the US for a draft resolution on North Korea's nuclear test, the ambassadors said.
US President George W. Bush denounced North Korea's announcement as a "provocative act". He said he and regional leaders agreed North Korea's actions were unacceptable and deserved an immediate response from the United Nations Security Council.
Even Pyongyang's ally China said it strongly opposed the move. South Korea's spy chief said there were possible indications the North was moving to conduct more tests.
There were conflicting reports on the size of the blast. South Korea said it was relatively small, while Russia said it was perhaps as powerful as the nuclear bombs the US dropped on Japan during World War II.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the underground test was performed successfully "with indigenous wisdom and technology 100 per cent", and that no radiation leaked from the test site.
"It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the (Korean People's Army) and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defence capability," KCNA said, adding that it was "a great leap forward in the building of a great prosperous powerful socialist nation".
If details of the test are confirmed, North Korea would be the eighth country known to have nuclear weapons, along with the United States, Russia, France, China, Britain, India and Pakistan. A nuclear North Korea would dramatically alter the strategic balance of power in the Pacific region and seriously undermine global anti-proliferation efforts. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the test would mark the beginning of a "dangerous nuclear age" in north Asia.
Australia and South Korea said there was seismic confirmation that pointed to a nuclear test, and a top Russian military officer confirmed the device tested was a nuclear weapon, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. However, Japan and the United States said they could not immediately confirm a nuclear test.
South Korea's seismic monitoring center said a tremor of 3.6 on the Richter scale was felt at the time of the nuclear test, which was not a natural occurrence.
The size of the tremor indicated an explosive equivalent to 550 tons of TNT, said Park Chang-soo, spokesman at the Seoul based Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources -- which would be far smaller than the nuclear bombs the US dropped on Japan during World War II.