North Korea Conducts Largest Nuclear Test To Date

The Guardian reports:

North Korea has confirmed it has conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date, marking the 68th anniversary of its founding with a reminder to the world that it may be edging closer to developing a warhead capable of striking the US mainland. Friday morning’s test, which triggered a magnitude 5.3 earthquake, drew immediate condemnation from North Korea’s neighbours and Washington.

Barack Obama, who was briefed on board Air Force One by National Security Adviser Susan Rice as he returned to the US from an Asian tour, said provocative actions by North Korea would have “serious consequences”. Japan called for an emergency meeting of the UN security council and its prime minister, Shinzo Abe, described North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme as a “grave threat” to Japan.

Japan’s top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, labelled North Korea a “neighbourhood outlaw” and said Tokyo was considering a new round of bilateral sanctions. China, North Korea’s traditional ally and major aid provider, voiced its “firm opposition” to the test. “We strongly urge [North Korea] to honour its commitment to denuclearisation, comply with relevant UN security council resolutions, and take action to stop the situation from deteriorating,” the foreign ministry said.

More from Reuters:

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 G20 summit.

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.