North Korea is believed to have conducted a fifth nuclear test, its most powerful to date, South Korea’s military said Friday after monitors detected a 5.3-magnitude “artificial earthquake” near its main nuclear site.
A confirmed test by the isolated North would send tensions soaring over its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions, which have already earned international condemnation and United Nations sanctions.
South Korean president Park Geun-hye said North Korea has conducted the nuclear test in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and in a direct challenge to the international community.
The North’s fifth nuclear test proved the country’s leader Kim Jong Un’s “maniacal recklessness” in completely ignoring the world’s call to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons, Park was quoted as saying by her office.
Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday that Tokyo has protested to North Korea over the secretive country’s suspected latest nuclear test. Such a test, if confirmed, would breach UN resolutions and pose a grave challenge to global nuclear non-proliferation efforts, Kishida told reporters.
The White House said it is assessing the explosion, but did not confirm reports of a nuclear test.
“We are aware of seismic activity on the Korean Peninsula in the vicinity of a known North Korean nuclear test site,” said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.
“We are monitoring and continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with our regional partners.”
China’s environment ministry has also begun emergency radiation monitoring along border regions in northeastern China after the suspected test.