Hailed as an historic event by North Korea, the international community has reacted with horror to Pyongyang’s announcement that it has defied the UN Security Council and tested a nuclear weapon for the first time. North Korea says the underground test was safe and successful. The exact size of the blast is not clear but South Korean experts say it was probably carried out in a mountain tunnel in the northeast of the country. The US Geological Survey said it had detected a 4.2 magnitude tremor in North Korea at 10.35 in the morning, local time.
Pyongyang declared last week that it would test a nuclear device – saying its hand was forced by what it called US threats of nuclear war and economic sanctions. South Korea put its troops on heightened alert after today’s annoucement. Reports said it also suspended a scheduled aid shipment to its communist neighbour whose crippled economy has now been opened up to the risk of fresh sanctions. News of the claimed test came just minutes before the Japanese Prime Minister landed in Seoul for a visit.
Many analysts see Japan as most directly threatened. Its new leader Shinzo Abe called the move “unpardonable.” His host, South Korea’s President Roh Moo-hyun, said the test was a dangerous ploy that could prompt other countries to develop nuclear weapons.