North Korea carries out biggest nuclear test


A KCNA newsreader announced the test, saying it had "great explosive power"

North Korea has carried out its third, most powerful nuclear test despite UN warnings, and said "even stronger" action might follow.

It described the test as a "self-defensive measure" necessitated by the "continued hostility" of the US.

Its main ally, China, criticised the test, which was condemned worldwide.

Nuclear test monitors in Vienna say the underground explosion had double the force of the 2009 test, despite reportedly involving a smaller device.

If, as North Korea reports, a smaller device was tested successfully, analysts say this could take Pyongyang closer to building a warhead small enough to arm a missile.

The UN Security Council will meet at 14:00 GMT to discuss the test and its ramifications, diplomats say.


All we know at the moment about the North Korean test is gleaned from seismic data: the event was magnitude 4.9, significantly larger than the 2006 and 2009 tests.

Learning more than that will be difficult. Monitoring stations in the region can pick up radioactive elements and particles that may - or may not - have been released from the test site; that would indicate whether the device was based on plutonium, as earlier tests, or the more worrisome uranium.

But that could take days, and may be frustrated by weather conditions; it will be virtually impossible to determine if the device was "miniaturised", as North Korea claims.

North Korea announced last month that it would conduct a third nuclear test following those in 2006 and 2009 as a response to UN sanctions that were expanded after the secretive communist state's December rocket launch, a move condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology.


Activity had been observed at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site for several months.

Seismic activity was then detected by monitoring agencies from several nations at 11:57 (02:57 GMT) on Tuesday. A shallow earthquake with a magnitude of 4.9 was recorded, the US Geological Survey said.

Confirmation of the test came three hours later in a statement from the state-run KCNA news agency.

"It was confirmed that the nuclear test, that was carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturised and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously, did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment," it said.

North Korea said the nuclear test - which comes just before US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address - was a response to the "reckless hostility of the United States".

N Korea satellite map of nuclear test site

"The latest nuclear test was only the first action, with which we exercised as much self-restraint as possible," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"If the US further complicates the situation with continued hostility, we will be left with no choice but to take even stronger second or third rounds of action."

The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation said the "explosion-like event" was twice as big as the 2009 test, which was in turn bigger than that in 2006.

It is the first such test under new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over the leadership after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.


Start Quote

It is a grave threat to our nation's safety and cannot be tolerated as it will significantly damage international society's peace and safety”

End Quote Shinzo Abe Japanese prime minister

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the test as a "clear and grave violation" of UN resolutions and a "deeply destabilising" provocation.

Mr Obama said the test was a "highly provocative act", and called for "swift" and "credible" international action in response.

China expressed "firm opposition" to its ally's test, urging the North to honour its commitment to denuclearisation and "not take any actions which might worsen the situation".

In other reaction:

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the North should "abandon its nuclear arms programme", and he called for the revival of talks on the issue
  • South Korea's presidential national security adviser, Chun Young-woo, said the test was an "unacceptable threat to the security of the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia... and a challenge to the whole international community"
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it was a "grave threat" to Japanese security and could "not be tolerated"
  • Nato described the test as an "irresponsible act" and a "grave threat to international and regional peace, security and stability"
  • Britain called for a "robust response" from the UN Security Council
  • French President Francois Hollande condemned the test and said Paris would back firm action by the UN Security Council

William Hague, British Foreign Secretary: "If North Korea continues in this way, it will face increasing isolation"

The BBC's Lucy Williamson, in Seoul, says the trouble, as ever, is what the international community can do in response without triggering an even bigger crisis - North Korea is already tied up in layers of sanctions which do not seem to have had any impact.

She adds that some in Washington have talked of maybe targeting North Korean financial interests, but the only real pressure is seen to lie with China.

By defying the UN and launching its nuclear test now, our correspondent says, Pyongyang is giving the new leadership in Beijing a very public test of its own.


More on This Story

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  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    @123 - Jesus lives?! Are you for real?! Jesus never did live. I suppose you also believe that Elvis delivers milk in Dublin?! Religion is the route of all evil. Without religion, there would be no war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    You couldn't make this up. Oh wait, someone already did!

    'Oh, herro Hans. Look, we've been through this a dozen times. I don't have any weapons of mass destruction OK?'

    'Mr Il, the UN must be very firm with you. Stop or else....'

    'Or else what?'

    'Or else, we will be very, very, angry and we will write you a letter telling you how angry.


    F*%& YEAH!

    Gotta love Parker and Stone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    While the world is distracted by North Korea, don't forget it's business at usual in the UK - a government who love bankers more than people, a government who are selling off the NHS, and supermarkets who don't give a damn about what's in our food.
    Once the excitement about North Korea's sabre rattling has died down, it will be business as usual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    How dare those nasty people in NK, not to mention Iran, develop & test nuclear weapons! Don't they know it's the West who decide who's allowed these weapons? Someone should tell them.

    kettle black pot calling the - rearrange these words.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    @jaydee I think most of this nuclear posturing is precisely because of UN and US sanctions , so they do have a major effect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Andre Martell
    5 Minutes ago

    @ Andre Martell - You say 'war on terror' being conducted by the US and its allies? Don't you mean 'war OF terror' ?

    Very clever, next time try posting something intelligent rather than regurgitating meangingless slogans

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    The answer lays with China.

    But China seems to be once again doing little to prevent North Korea's nuclear missile programme.

    Once N.Korea has this missle, more will be built and the people of N.Korea are doomed for many years to live under the boot of this dreadful dictatorship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    As usual sanctions have failed. Do we have a policy to adopt now. The only policy is to bring N Korea in to the fold, much as it tastes bad, and ensure peace through prosperity, It worked with China and the Soviets

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    They cannot be trusted and are as much a threat as Iran to the world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Seems very hard to criticise NK for developing nuclear weapons while concentrating nuclear arsenal of west on them to ensure they don't develop nuclear weapons. NK like Iran seem to be nations that want to stamp claim as dominant nation in region (as US and UK already did) so no surprise overtones are aggressive when west try to micromanage Asia and Middle East.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Odd isn't it.
    The USA is allowed to pollute the world with their nuclear tests but not North Korea. Political double standards? And how typical of the BBC lie machine to stir the muck.

    -The last US Nuclear Weapons test was in 1992
    In Russia 1990
    The UK 1991
    France 1974
    China 1996
    Israel 1988

    North Korea Yesterday

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    People have asked a few times on here "So what if he uses them?".
    South Korea and Japan will react with equal or greater force because they've been waiting for a good enough reason to. US will fund or arm both of them if they want to stay out of the International scene. Then China would be forced to decide if they back the crazy dictator or the constant consumers. UN will be in an uproar too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    @Edollah, NK has committed a number of aggressive acts, including the 2010 sinking of a South Korean navy ship, resulting in the deaths of 46 sailors. That is an act of war, yet, true to form, NK proceeded to threaten war if any sanctions were imposed as a result of their actions.

    NK hasn't invaded another country because it doesn't have the resources to sustain an invasion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Wow! Such sensationalism, way to go generating fear uncertainty and doubt...

    It is one thing to build a single nuke which will detonate without just turning into a dirty bomb and making the test range uninhabitable, it is another to be able to turn that nuke into a device which can be mounted on a rocket and detonated succesfully at range.

    NK are a long way off doing the second.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    This is a long term game of chess (or Xiangqi?) and North Korea are merely a diversionary comedy pawn.

    When will we, as a species, collectively grow up and stop playing these games?

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    the present state of NK is not just USAs fault but also due to intrusion of china and russia in the mid-late 1940s. stalin favoured kim, who then chose to isolate his own country using USA as a scapegoat (imperial aggressor) to keep himself in power. kim only went for his "juche" as a result of japans intrusions up to WW2 maybe USA should have been more aggressive in the korean war. history now..

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    George Bush threatened them directly and continuously, so they rushed a nuclear program through.

    The exact same second that first nuke was tested, Bush shifted his focus to Iran, now Iran is rushing to it's own nuke.

    This pattern is no more hard to spot than it is to predict. International bully or not, Nukes are the level playing ground America fears. It's the only way to be sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    There is a real imbalance with what the UN, USA and UK get involved with. Nobody seems to care that NK persecute their own people, but if they set off a bomb underground suddenly it's all "robust responses". With regards the bomb itself let us not forget that the USA is still the only country to ever use one (actually 2) in anger, perhaps they should be the ones under scrutiny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    What would we do if Scotland develops atom bombs after the referendum. The mind boggles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Even rolly polly dictator Kim Jong-un must have the rudimentary intelligence to know that if he ever used a nuclear bomb in aggression he and his country would be bombed into oblivion by the Americans and even the Chinese. This is just about waving his genitalia about to look strong in his own country.


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