North Korea reacted angrily Wednesday to a U.N. resolution that condemns its recent rocket launch and imposes new sanctions, hinting that it may conduct another nuclear test.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry warned that Pyongyang “will take steps for physical counteraction to bolster the military capabilities for self-defense, including the nuclear deterrence, both qualitatively and quantitatively.”
Analysts interpreted the statement as a sign that North Korea will conduct another nuclear test.
“Based on their previous behavior and today’s statement, it is quite possible that North Koreans may conduct another nuclear test sooner or later,” said Seong-ho Sheen, an associate professor at Seoul National University. “When it comes to the nuclear issue, the new leader, Kim Jong-un, seems to have unchanged determination to keep a nuclear deterrence capability for his own regime’s survival.”
In 2006 and 2009, North Korea responded with nuclear tests to U.N. sanctions punishing rocket launches.
“I think they very well could be ready to test a uranium weapon, but we do not know for sure whether they have enough highly enriched uranium to do that,” said Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.
“If they do test a uranium bomb, then it would disclose that they have mastered the technology to enrich uranium and have been doing it long enough produce significant quantities,” he added.
The Obama administration’s top official for North Korea policy said a nuclear test by Pyongyang would be a “mistake.”
“They have been hinting at [conducting a nuclear test], I suppose, for some time,” Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said Wednesday in Incheon, South Korea.
“We think that that would be a mistake, obviously. We call on North Korea, as does the entire international community, not to engage in any further provocations,” he added. “The truth is, it is up to North Korea whether they test or not. This is not something that they can credibly claim is in reaction to steps taken by the international community.”
The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Tuesday condemning a North Korean rocket launch in December as a violation of a ban on missile activity. The resolution imposes new sanctions and warned of “significant” action if North Korea carries out another nuclear test.
North Korea suffered a diplomatic blow when its ally, China, voted in support of the resolution.
The U.N. resolution demanded that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.” It also ordered Pyongyang to cease rocket launches.
The resolution “makes clear that if North Korea chooses again to defy the international community, such as by conducting another launch or a nuclear test, then the [Security] Council will take significant action,” said Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. of being “hostile.”
The Obama administration and South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye have left open the door for dialogue with Pyongyang. During her election campaign, Miss Park said she would consider economic assistance to North Korea on the condition that Pyongyang makes a commitment to denuclearize.
“The United States remains committed to diplomacy if we can find a way forward,” said Mr. Davies. “Now is not a time to make the situation on the Korean Peninsula any more tense,” he added. “Now is a time to begin to think about a path forward, away from provocation; a path forward toward peace, toward prosperity, and toward meeting the needs of the North Korean people.”