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No Nuclear Traces as South Korean Chosen As Next UN Chief

With ironic timing, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon was nominated today as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations to succeed the embattled Kofi Annan.

The 192-member U.N. General Assembly must give final approval to Ban's nomination, which usually follows within a week or two. That vote is expected to be positive for the first Asian secretary-general since U Thant of Burma in 1961-1971.

Ban, speaking to reporters in Seoul after the Security Council vote, said North Korea's reported test was "a grave and direct threat to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and northeast Asia."

"This should be a moment of joy but instead I stand here with a very heavy heart," he said.

This as the US detected second North Korea blast.

“We are aware that there was a sub-kilotonne explosion in North Korea,” said the official. “We have not been able to determine at this point whether it was in fact nuclear.”

This is an important observation. There has yet to be any detected trace of atomic particles. While it would seem illogical for North Korea to attempt to fake a nuclear detonation - even more potentially damaging to the state than an actual test - reason would not the strong suit of a regime that starves its own people.

But, in the first North Korean statement, one line stood out from the very beginning as strange.

"It has been confirmed that there was no such danger as radioactive emission in the course of the nuclear test as it was carried out under scientific consideration and careful calculation."

It is at least curious from a regime that fully intends the test to be widely publicized and intensely provocative to be immediately concerned with zero radiation emission. And considering the very low (relatively) blast levels, it all adds up to at least cast doubt.

Pause for more information before concluding definitively that this was a nuclear test. There's a fair chance it may not have been that at all. North Korea's nuclear program has been thus far been used as a blackmail-enabling bartering chip. It may be that still.