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

Korea crisis


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  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    Nukes are only effective when you have them but not use them. Once you use them, you face certain obliteration. So they are a perfectly rational defensive strategy for a small country like N Korea - they make the US think twice before unleashing its war machine again. For it is the US, not N Korea or Iran that has been at constant war during the last 100 or so years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    Robbie very erudite, you could also apply your argument to Israel, and indeed attempts have been made but been blocked by the USA veto in the security council. Why do you think the USA does that? Answers on a postcard to Tel Aviv.

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    Could we not re-tool our cluster bombs to contain food parcels? And carpet bomb some humanity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    So, here we go again, the countries that have dictated to so many for so long, again have the audacity to continue with the "do as I say and not as I do" approach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

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

    So, just like last time when he did absolutely nothing credible or otherwise? Maybe that's why the DPRK feels it can act with impunity, and will do so next time as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    746.Fred Bloggs
    "I am not a socialist but I always found Sweden a good example."
    Yeah they don't kill their own citizens, just drive them to suicide...
    Suicide rates in Sweden are only marginally higher than in the UK or Switzerland for example.

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    730. Adam
    People the US are not war mongers as a nation, that attitude is racist.
    another unmanned drone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    Classic case of haves telling have-nots - not to have it

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    The Chinese public disapproval is probably just an illusion. They are likely to be using N Korea to create a proxy conflict with the U.S. Let’s just hope that Beijing really does have a firm grip on North Korea and is capable of reining them in as the crisis gradually escalates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    Someone on here said the US haven't tested nukes since 1992. Wrong. The most recent US nuclear test was a sub-critical test of the properties of plutonium, conducted underground on December 7, 2012. Japan formally protested.

    So the US is in no position to condemn N Korea. Shame on the mainstream media for ignoring the US test.

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    "744. Bastiat "

    What is it about "please show me a judgement of the Supreme Court that upholds your opinion" that you just don't seem to understand? An impeachment resolution from Congress would be a suitable alternative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    Dont we all owe this world some respect instead of trying to blow it to smithereens. The siesmic activity this blast has caused is irrepararable. Will the North Koreans (in their fanatical wisdom) be able to fix that!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    My post was removed because I posted the following information.

    North Korea - 3 nuclear tests

    Pakistan 2 tests

    India 4 tests

    China 45 tests

    UK 45 tests

    France 210 tests

    USSR 715 tests

    USA 1,032 tests

    Yes, North Korea were in the wrong for conducting a test of a nuclear weapon, but please lets keep a sense of proportion here, they are far from the worst offenders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    I'm very angry about this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    Although nuclear proliferation in arms should be controlled, we must appreciate that nuclear technology is here to stay. We cannot wind the clock back and it does have certain merits. If NK decides to arm a missile with a nuke, its their immediate neighbours who should stop them, including China. China, Japan and SK should be part of the Shield to take out a rocket before it leaves NK airspace

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    Western Governments love controlling the masses through propaganda and just loathe N Korea because they can't control. Next month it will be Iran again on the radar for not complying with the West...Mr Hague say N Korea will face isolation...really?..what means is further to current conditions?..these liars in Government duped the world in the reasons for the Iraq war. N Korea is not the problem!

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    It's great to see many have seen through the latest scary script.

    Many a not going along with the herd instinct.

    Worrying times for those creating you news.

    We're ahead of the curve folks, keep it up.

    They're losing the infowar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    I am surprised the comments are so relaxed, criticising the US more than NK. Korea should be a high priority area - it's a liminal area for the US and China. If NK uses their bomb, the whole world would have to get involved - the US is obliged to support SK in war.
    Ideally, we'd have a peaceful pro-US unified Korea.
    But the best we can hope for is stability in the region. That means NO NUKES.

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    Sieuarlu 712

    What I find amazing about you and your fellow travellers is the one of the most iconic notions in USA folklore is that of the Equaliser (Equalizer?).

    But you don't like it when someone else has one.

    A little inequitable don't you think.

    And Stevie 702 you can read such fanatical tripe right here. viz

    S. what if it was China or Russia who supplied the device..

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    @740. Yannis

    If the N. Koreans and the Iranians are the nutters we should never allow to have nuclear weapons, why is it that it is actually only the US that has both used nukes (on Japan) AND threatened to use them (Cuban crisis).
    because nutters=people who oppose us



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