North Korea Nuke Test Stirs Region
At 10:36 AM local time, North Korea detonated its first nuclear bomb in an underground test near Kilju (also known as P’unggye-yok). South Korea soon after released information that their services had detected a 3.6 magnitude tremor at the time of North Korea’s claimed nuclear test. Early on, the US Geological Survey reported that they had no information on a seismic event, but later confirmed that a 4.2 magnitude event had been recorded (Google Map).
The coordinates given for the blast are of the same facility that US satellite imagery reports of preparations being made for the test on August 17, two weeks before Iran’s deadline for ceasing enrichment activities as dictated by the UN Security Council (see ThreatsWatch report: Synchronicity?). The apparent North Korean nuclear bomb test comes just as the members of the UN Security Council are set to convene meetings regarding sanctioning Iran for disregarding the deadline and refusing to halt enrichment.
North Korea’s announcement of the nuclear test says that “It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it.”
But the nuclear test has stirred international angst rather than promote peace. Among the most important reactions will be that of Japan under their new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. Prime Minister Abe is in Seoul, South Korea, to meet with that country’s president and prime minister on the North Korean nuclear crisis and said of the North Korean test, “We have to collect and analyze information by keeping contact with the United States and China.” Abe has been expected to end the provision in Japan’s constitution that limits it to a self-defense force and the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons is likely to propel Japan to seek its own nuclear deterrent.
Nuclear Threat Initiative reports that as of 2001, Japan had 30 tons of spent nuclear fuel stored in French and British reprocessing facilities and 5 to 6 metric tons on Japanese soil. Japan has intended to eventually bring the spent fuel back to convert it into plutonium with its controversial plutonium enrichment program. If Japan feels threatened by North Korean nuclear weapons, the plutonium can be used for weapons rather than fuel for power plants.
A South Korean presidential statement reacted harshly to the North Korean test, saying “Our Government will sternly deal with this in accordance with the principle that it will not tolerate North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons.”
But perhaps the most terse response from any nation thus far has been the clear rebuke from China, condemning the test as “brazen.” The Chinese statement read, “On October 9, the DPRK (North Korea), ignoring the general opposition of the international community, brazenly undertook a nuclear test. The Chinese government expresses its resolute opposition. China strongly demands the DPRK side to undertake its commitments to the non-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and stop all actions that can lead to the deterioration of the situation.”
Such uncustomarily strong language from the Chinese communist government may indicate that UN Security Council action may be swift and stern. The White House was expected to release a statement shortly.