- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2013

North Korea confirmed on Tuesday that it had conducted its third nuclear test, setting off a wave of global condemnation, including from President Obama, who called the test a “highly provocative act” that “undermines regional stability.”

North Korea’s test “violates North Korea’s obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and increases the risk of proliferation,” Mr. Obama said.

The U.N. Security Council was to convene an emergency meeting in New York at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss North Korea’s latest provocation.

“The danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community,” Mr. Obama said. “We will strengthen close coordination with allies and partners and work with our Six-Party partners, the United Nations Security Council, and other U.N. member states to pursue firm action.”

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said the Obama administration’s North Korea policy has failed.

“The Obama administration must replace its failed North Korea policy with one that is energetic, creative, and focused on crippling the regime’s military capabilities through stringent sanctions that tackle its illicit activities and cuts off its flow of hard currency,” said Rep. Edward R. Royce, California Republican and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Otherwise, the grave North Korean threat to the region and the United States will only grow.”

North Korea’s latest nuclear test “is yet more evidence of its deep commitment to its nuclear weapons program, and demands the Obama administration’s attention,” he added.

North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency confirmed the test.

“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,” KCNA said.

North Korea said the nuclear test was a response to the “reckless hostility of the United States,” KCNA said, referring to U.S.-led sanctions on Pyongyang after North Korea launched a long-range rocket in December.

The U.S. intelligence community assessed that the explosion yield was approximately several kilotons, said the office of the director of national intelligence.

North Korea’s regional ally, China, criticized Pyongyang for conducting the test.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China was “strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed” to the latest provocation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the test was a “grave threat,” and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was a “clear and grave violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons program and return to talks.

The North Atlantic Council, NATO’s political governing body, condemned North Korea’s test in the “strongest terms” and said it was a “flagrant violation of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

“This irresponsible act, along with the December missile launch, poses a grave threat to international peace, security and stability. North Korea’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction represents continued defiance of the UN Security Council and the broader international community,” the council said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the United States, China, Russia and South Korea detected seismic activity in the northern part of North Korea. The Korean Peninsula is not prone to earthquakes, and the tremors led to speculation that Pyongyang had made good on its promise to conduct a nuclear test.

The U.S. Geological Survey said it had detected a magnitude-4.9 quake in North Korea. The tremor was recorded at 11:57 a.m. local time (9:57 p.m. EST Monday).

North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site nuclear test site is located in the northeastern part of the country. Recent satellite photographs of the site showed that it was in a state of readiness and a test could be conducted within weeks of an order being given, according to an analysis by 38 North, a program of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies’ U.S.-Korea Institute.

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security,” Mr. Obama said. “The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region.”

North Korea last month threatened to conduct a third nuclear test and launch more long-range rockets in response to a U.N. resolution that reprimanded Pyongyang for launching a rocket in December and imposed new sanctions.

The test was widely expected to be carried out this week as it coincides with the Feb. 16 birthday of Kim Jong-il, the former North Korean strongman and father of current leader Kim Jong-un.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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