- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2016

President Obama condemned North Korea’s nuclear test Friday as “a grave threat to regional security and to international peace and stability.”

“The United States does not, and never will, accept North Korea as a nuclear state,” Mr. Obama said in a statement, calling the test “a flagrant violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The president pledged to work with allies, including South Korea and Japan, to tighten U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang, which announced that it conducted the underground test as Mr. Obama was returning to Washington from summits in Asia.

North Korea stands out as the only country to have tested nuclear weapons this century,” Mr. Obama said. “As commander in chief, I have a responsibility to safeguard the American people and ensure that the United States is leading the international community in responding to this threat and North Korea’s other provocations with commensurate resolve and condemnation.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan also condemned the nuclear test and said it was “a consequence of the administration’s failed policy of strategic patience and its hollow pivot to Asia.”

“The president should immediately make full use of the sanctions authorities Congress gave him earlier this year, and he should join me in urging China, as Pyongyang’s chief sponsor, to fully enforce the international sanctions on the Kim regime,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

Mr. Obama spoke by phone overnight from Air Force One with the leaders of South Korea and Japan to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to their security.

Mr. Obama told South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would work with them “to ensure provocative actions from North Korea are met with serious consequences.”

North Korea said Friday it conducted a “higher level” nuclear warhead test explosion that will allow it to finally build “at will” an array of stronger, smaller and lighter nuclear weapons. It is Pyongyang’s fifth atomic test and the second in eight months.

South Korea’s president called the detonation, which Seoul estimated as the North’s biggest-ever explosive yield, an act of “fanatic recklessness.”

The North’s boast of a technologically game-changing nuclear test defies both tough international sanctions and long-standing diplomatic pressure to curb its nuclear ambitions. It will raise serious worries in many world capitals that Pyongyang has moved another step closer to its goal of a nuclear-armed missile that could one day strike the U.S. mainland.

Hours after Seoul noted unusual seismic activity near the North’s northeastern nuclear test site, Pyongyang said in its state-run media that a test had “finally examined and confirmed the structure and specific features of movement of [a] nuclear warhead that has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets.”

“The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable [North Korea] to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power,” the North said. “This has definitely put on a higher level [the North’s] technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.”

Mr. Obama said North Korea’s “provocative and destabilizing actions have instead served to isolate and impoverish its people through its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities.”

“Today’s nuclear test, a flagrant violation of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions, makes clear North Korea’s disregard for international norms and standards for behavior and demonstrates it has no interest in being a responsible member of the international community,” he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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