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October 08, 2006

North Koreans Test Nukes

Well, the North Korean dictator has taken the dangerous and destablizing step of conducting a test of a nuclear weapon.

"The field of scientific research in the DPRK successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, 2006, at a stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great, prosperous, powerful socialist nation.

"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.

"The nuclear test was conducted with indigenous wisdom and technology 100 percent. It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the KPA and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability.

"It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it."

The test resulted in a 3.56 earth tremor that was measured in Seoul.

North Koreas neighbors and the world community had expressed concern in advance of the test.

The move came as Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began a visit to South Korea focused on pressuring North Korea to drop its planned nuclear test, and on improving bilateral relations soured by historical issues.

Abe arrived from Beijing, where he and President Hu Jintao had expressed "deep concern" about the test plan and vowed to push for the resumption of stalled disarmament talks.

North Korea's October 3 announcement that it plans to test a nuclear bomb in response to what it called US military threats and sanctions, had sparked worldwide alarm and condemnation from the UN Security Council.

What will be the reaction of South Korea and Japan? Of Red China? Of the US?

UPDATE -- Some world reaction here.

Although North Korea has long claimed it had the capability to produce a bomb, the test was the first manifest proof of its membership in a small club of nuclear-armed nations. A nuclear armed North Korea would dramatically alter the strategic balance of power in the Pacific region and would tend to undermine already fraying global anti-proliferation efforts.

"If the test (is) true, it will severely endanger not only Northeast Asia but also the world stability," Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso warned.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, facing his first major foreign policy test since his recent election, called for a "calm yet stern response."

South Korea said it had put its military on high alert, but said it noticed no unusual activity among North Korea's troops.

China, the North's closest ally and the impoverished nation's main source of food, expressed its "resolute opposition" to the reported test and urged the North to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks. It said the North "defied the universal opposition of international society and flagrantly conducted the nuclear test."

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said the test was a "completely irresponsible act," and its Foreign Ministry warned of international repercussions.

The White House said a test defied world opinion.

"A North Korean nuclear test would constitute a provocative act in defiance of the will of the international community and of our call to refrain from actions that would aggravate tensions in Northeast Asia," Snow said.

Russia, which borders North Korea, had urged Pyongyang not to conduct a nuclear test. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov last week voiced concern about the environmental consequences for Russia. The Foreign Ministry warned that a test would add to regional tensions and undermine the international nuclear nonproliferation regime.

And the Washington Post offers this analysis which comes down to "It's all Bush's fault!" Ditto MSNBC/Newsweek, which blames sanctions against North Korea for forcing the pathetic dictator in Pyongyang to act. NY Times, shockingly, blames the Red Chinese.

Reaction from the blogosphere at Captain's Quarters, Stop the ACLU (twice), Blogs for Bush, Belmont Club

UPDATE II: Russia claims NorK nuke significantly larger than estimated by others.

Russia's defense minister said Monday that North Korea's nuclear test was equivalent to 5,000 tons to 15,000 tons of TNT.

That would be far greater than the force given by South Korea's geological institute, which estimated it at just 550 tons of TNT.

By comparison the bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima during World War II was equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT.





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