North Korea often does irrational and dangerous things to push the envelope, and they did it again on Friday with their fifth and largest missiles test to date.
South Korean officials and analysts said after meteorological agencies reported a surface-level seismic tremor near the North’s known test site. The United States, European and Chinese agencies reported that the tremor was recorded at 0030 GMT, measuring the tremor at a magnitude of 5.3. South Korea called an emergency meeting of its National Security Council on suspicion that the North had conducted a nuclear test, and China’s environment ministry began emergency radiation monitoring along its borders with North Korea in northeast China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said such a nuclear test could not be tolerated. Japan’s foreign minister lodged a protest and Tokyo also sent two military jets to begin measuring for radiation.
Obviously no results have been reported yet but it is being estimated that the blast was bigger even then the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Under the rule of Kim Jong Un, North Korea has accelerated the development of its nuclear and missile programs, despite U.N. sanctions that were tightened in March and have further isolated the impoverished country.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, in Laos after a summit of Asian leaders, said Kim was showing “maniacal recklessness” in completely ignoring the world’s call to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons.
U.S. President Barack Obama, aboard Air Force One on his way home from Laos, said the test would be met with “serious consequences”, and held talks with Park and with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the White House said.
China said it was resolutely opposed to the test and urged Pyongyang to stop taking any actions that would worsen the situation. It said it would lodge a protest with the North Korean embassy in Beijing. There were further robust condemnations from Russia, the European Union, NATO, Germany and Britain.
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 miniaturise 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 whoever wins.
“Sanctions have already been imposed on almost everything possible, so the policy is at an impasse,” said Tadashi Kimiya, a University of Tokyo professor specialising in Korean issues. “In reality, the means by which the United States, South Korea and Japan can put pressure on North Korea have reached their limits,” he said.