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N. Korea nuclear test sends tremors

Security Council calls emergency session

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006 North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • February 12, 2013
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North Korea prompted widespread international condemnation on Tuesday after announcing it had conducted a third underground nuclear test.

Describing the event as a success, the state Korea Central News Agency said North Korea detonated a “smaller” device compared to previous tests in 2006 and 2009. The latest test prompted seismic activity registering 4.9 on the Richter scale just before midday local time.

“The test was carried out as part of practical measures of counteraction to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the US which wantonly violated the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch [a] satellite for peaceful purposes,” read the statement, referring to a widely condemned long-range missile test in December.

US President Barack Obama urged a “swift” and “credible” international response in a written statement, as the United Nations Security Council called an emergency meeting for later on Tuesday in New York.

Permanent members Russia and the UK joined North Korea’s main ally China in denouncing the test following the announcement from Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called it a “clear violation” of previous UN Security Council resolutions.

“This is deeply regrettable,” Yukiya Amano, the head of the IAEA, said in a statement.

Following the missile test in December, the Security Council was unanimous in its condemnation of North Korea which in response said it would consider South Korea’s enforcement of stricter sanctions as a declaration of war, one of a series of recent strong statements by the regime against its southern neighbor.

Lee Jang-hi, professor of international law at Seoul’s Hankuk University, said further Security Council restrictions were almost certain, which could lead to further North Korean provocation, even if this was not Pyongyang’s ultimate aim.

“We need to understand that North Korea used its nuclear test as a means to urge negotiations with the US,” he added.

Former leader Kim Jong-il used North Korea’s first test in 2006 to force dialogue with the US, according to Hong Hyun-ik, director of the security strategy studies program at the Sejong Institute, an independent think-tank in Seoul, especially following the succesful missile test in December.

“Possibly the North and the US will try to have a dialogue after going through serious confrontations in just two months,” he said.

A year ago, both sides agreed that North Korea would halt uranium enrichment and missile tests and allow inspections by the IAEA in exchange for US food aid as part of a deal that was expected to lead to the resumption of six-party nuclear talks last held in late 2007.

However, a failed North Korean rocket test in April led the US to suspend aid which effectively annulled the agreement.

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