North Korea tests 'threaten international peace'
Japan's prime pinister Shinzo Abe speaks to media after attending a meeting of Security Council of Japan at his official residence in Tokyo today after reports of seismic activity from North Korea's nuclear test. Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters
North Korea's nuclear ambitions could pose a threat to international security, Nato general secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this evening.
Speaking to RTÉ News in Dublin this evening after North Korea launched its third underground nuclear test this morning, Mr Rasmussen said the move "might further destabilise the situation in the Korean peninsula – but they are also developing missile technologies – so it might constitute a threat to international peace and security."
The United Nations Security Council has strongly condemned the test and vowed to take action against Pyongyang for an act that all major world powers, including traditional ally China, have denounced.
North Korea claimed the atomic test was merely its “first response” to what it called US threats, and said it will continue with unspecified “second and third measures of greater intensity” if Washington maintains its hostility.
The underground test, which set off powerful seismic waves, drew immediate condemnation from Britain, Washington, the UN and others. Even its only major ally, China, summoned the North’s ambassador for a dressing-down.
Monitoring stations in South Korea detected an earthquake in the North with a magnitude of 4.9 which corresponds to an estimated explosive yield of 6-7 kilotons.
The yields of the North’s 2006 and 2009 tests were estimated at 1 kiloton and 2 to 6 kilotons. By comparison, US nuclear bombs that flattened Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the Second World War were estimated at 13 kilotons and 22 kilotons.
US President Barack Obama said nuclear tests “do not make North Korea more secure.” Instead, North Korea has “increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its ill-advised pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
Outgoing Pentagon chief Leon Panetta compared the country to Iran, labelling them both as "rogue states".
“We just saw what North Korea has done in these last few weeks, a missile test and now a nuclear test. They represent a serious threat to the United States of America, and we’ve got to be prepared to deal with that,” he said.
In an emergency session this afternoon the UN Security Council unanimously said the test poses “a clear threat to international peace and security” and pledged further action.
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this test, which is a grave violation of Security Council resolutions," South Korean foreign minister Kim Sung-hwan, whose country is president of the council this month, told reporters.
He said the council would now consider "appropriate measures." The non-binding statement was approved by all 15 council members.
US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said Washington and its allies want the Security Council to pass a resolution that would "augment the sanctions regime" already in place due to Pyongyang's 2006 and 2009 atomic tests.
The council statement was agreed at an emergency closed-door session convened by South Korea. Diplomats say negotiations on new sanctions could take weeks since China is likely to resist tough new measures for fear that new sanctions could lead to further retaliation by the North Korean leadership.
Beijing has also been concerned that tougher sanctions could further weaken the North's economy and prompt a flood of refugees into China.
The United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - the five permanent members of the 15-nation council - all condemned Pyongyang's latest nuclear test, which an international nuclear test monitoring agency in Vienna said was roughly twice as large as that of North Korea's 2009 nuclear test.
Mr Obama said "the danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community."