North Korea has confirmed that it carried out a third nuclear weapons test on Tuesday, in defiance of United Nations warnings.
The announcement confirms the suspicions of South Korea, who broke the news of the nuclear test this morning after detecting unusual seismic activity.
The secretive communist government of North Korea carried out a test explosion of a “miniaturised” nuclear device, which proceeded in a “perfect manner”, said its leaders in Pyongyang.
“It was confirmed that the nuclear test that was carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment,” said a statement aired on the KCNA state news agency.
North Korea had announced its intentions to carry out a third nuclear weapons test in advance. The announcement was made in late January in response to a UN resolution last month which tightened international sanctions and condemned the countries nuclear weapons programme.
The UN has previously warned of “significant consequences” if the hermit state went ahead with the test, and today UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon described the test as a “clear and grave violation” of United Nations Security Council Resolution.
A South Korean analysis of the seismic activity suggests that the explosion was slightly bigger than the two previous tests carried out by the North. An estimate of 6-7 kilotons has been given for the size of the device, which is just a third of the size of the 20 kiloton bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
The UN Security Council have called an emergency meeting later in the day to discuss their response, which could further annoy North Korea’s main ally China, who are in the middle of their New Year celebrations. Japan, which is within the range of North Korea’s long range missiles, has already called for additional sanctions, although it is not clear what these could be given that it is already the most heavily sanction country in the world.
The Defense Ministry of South Korea has warned that additional nuclear tests and missile launches could follow.
Speculation will now begin as to whether today’s test used a plutonium device similar to previous tests, or if the North have created a new device using highly enriched uranium. Using highly enriched uranium would potentially allow the North to build up a larger arsenal of nuclear weapons than would be possible using plutonium.
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