SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea claimed it carried out a powerful underground nuclear test Monday – much larger than one conducted in 2006 – in a major provocation in the escalating international standoff over its rogue nuclear and missile programs.
Pyongyang announced the test, and Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed an atomic explosion at 9:54 a.m. (0054 GMT) in northeastern North Korea, estimating the blast’s yield at 10 to 20 kilotons – comparable to the bombs that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The regime also test-fired three short-range, ground-to-air missiles later Monday from the same northeastern site where it launched a rocket last month, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing unnamed sources. The rocket liftoff, widely believed to be a cover for a test of its long-range missile technology, drew censure from the U.N. Security Council.
North Korea, incensed by the condemnation of the April 5 rocket launch, had warned last month that it would restart its rogue nuclear program, conduct an atomic test and carry out long-range missile tests.
On Monday, the country’s official Korean Central News Agency said the regime “successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of measures to bolster its nuclear deterrent for self-defense.”
President Barack Obama said a nuclear test would constitute an act of “blatant defiance” of the U.N. Security Council and a violation of international law, and only further isolate North Korea.
North Korea’s claims “are a matter of grave concern to all nations,” he said, calling for international action in a statement from Washington. “North Korea’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons, as well as its ballistic missile program, constitute a threat to international peace and security.”
This latest test appears to demonstrate a dangerous escalation in North Korea’s nuclear weapons technology. North Korea’s first nuclear weapons test in October 2006 is generally considered to have been a “fizzle,” as it yielded less than 1 kiloton. North Korea is the world’s most isolated nation, and it goes without saying that with virtually no contact with the outside world, their engineers and physicists would have a difficult time with a complicated task like building a working nuclear weapon. Which makes me wonder … have the North Koreans secretly obtained help from another nuclear nation — perhaps Russia?
Worth another look: