North Korea conducts fifth and largest
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[September 09, 2016]
By Ju-min Park and Jack Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea conducted its
fifth and biggest nuclear test on Friday and said it had mastered the
ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile, ratcheting up a
threat that its rivals and the United Nations have been powerless to
The blast, on the 68th anniversary of North Korea's founding, was more
powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, according to some
estimates, and drew condemnation from the United States as well as
China, Pyongyang's main ally.
Under 32-year-old dictator Kim Jong Un, North Korea has accelerated the
development of its nuclear and missile programs despite U.N. sanctions
that were tightened in March and have further isolated the impoverished
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, in Laos after a summit of Asian
leaders, said Kim was showing "maniacal recklessness" in completely
ignoring the world's call to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons.
U.S. President Barack Obama, aboard Air Force One on his way home from
Laos, said the test would be met with "serious consequences" and held
talks with Park and with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the White
China 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.
North Korea, which labels the South and the United States as its main
enemies, said its "scientists and technicians carried out a nuclear
explosion test for the judgment of the power of a nuclear warhead,"
according to its official KCNA news agency.
It said the test proved North Korea was capable of mounting a nuclear
warhead on a medium-range ballistic missile, which it last tested on
Monday when Obama and other world leaders were gathered in China for a
Pyongyang's claims of being able to miniaturize a nuclear warhead have
never been independently verified.
Its continued testing in defiance of sanctions presents a challenge to
Obama in the final months of his presidency and could become a factor in
the U.S. presidential election in November, and a headache to be
inherited by his successor.
"Sanctions have already been imposed on almost everything possible, so
the policy is at an impasse," said Tadashi Kimiya, a University of Tokyo
professor specializing in Korean issues.
"In reality, the means by which the United States, South Korea and Japan
can put pressure on North Korea have reached their limits," he said.
North Korea has been testing different types of missiles at an
unprecedented rate this year, and the capability to mount a nuclear
warhead on a missile is especially worrisome for its neighbors South
Korea and Japan.
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KRT bulletin shows North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un in this still
image taken from video on September 9, 2016. KRT/via Reuters
"The standardization 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 said, referring to the country's formal name, the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea.
It was not clear whether Pyongyang had notified Beijing or Moscow of
its planned nuclear test. Senior officials from Pyongyang were in
both capitals this week.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had no
information to provide when asked if China had advance warning of
the test, and would not be drawn on whether China would support
tougher sanctions against its neighbor.
Although Beijing has criticized North Korea's nuclear and missile
tests, it has repeatedly expressed anger since the United States and
South Korea decided in July to deploy the Terminal High Altitude
Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system in the South.
China calls THAAD a threat to its own security and will do nothing
to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table on its nuclear
Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Middlebury Institute of
International Studies said the highest estimates of seismic
magnitude suggested this was the most powerful nuclear test
conducted by North Korea so far.
He said the seismic magnitude and surface level indicated a blast
with a 20- to 30-kilotonne yield. Such a yield would make this test
larger than the nuclear bomb dropped by the United States on the
Japanese city of Hiroshima in World War Two.
"That's the largest DPRK test to date, 20-30kt, at least. Not a
happy day," Lewis told Reuters.
South Korea's military put the force of the blast at 10 kilotons,
which would would still be the North's most powerful nuclear blast
"The important thing is that five tests in, they now have a lot of
nuclear test experience. They aren't a backwards state any more,"
(Reporting by Jack Kim, Ju-min Park, James Pearson, Se Young Lee,
Nataly Pak, and Yun Hwan Chae in SEOUL; Additional reporting by Ben
Blanchard in BEIJING, Kaori Kaneko and Linda Sieg in TOKYO, and Eric
Beech in WASHINGTON; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Raju
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