A 5.3 magnitude earthquake recorded near a North Korea military site on Friday was its fifth nuclear test, regime confirms
We’re going to wrap up the blog. Here are some of the main points again:
There has been further condemnation of the nuclear test from world leaders.
France called on the United Nations Security Council to quickly face the issue, AP reports. The French presidency says “the international community must unite against this new provocation.”
North Korea’s latest and fifth nuclear test, if confirmed, is “deeply troubling and regrettable”, the head of the UN atomic watchdog said.
“This is in clear violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions and in complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community,” said Yukiya Amano, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
South Korea’s intelligence agency is concerned that North Korea is advancing faster to miniaturize warheads on missiles, a lawmaker said after receiving an agency briefing on the North’s latest nuclear test.
Kim Byung-kee, a member of the South Korean parliament’s intelligence committee, cited the spy agency as saying the North’s nuclear test was intended to project a strong image of its leader, Kim Jong Un, on the anniversary of the country’s 1948 foundation as a republic, as well as defy international sanctions.
Hello Jamie Grierson in London here. First up, we have more from Reuters on the impact the nuclear test has had on Asian stock markets, and is likely to have on European markets.
Asian shares extended losses after North Korea conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test on Friday, heightening geopolitical tensions in the region at a time when investors are grappling with slowing global growth.
Stocks were already on the back foot when the North Korean news rattled markets, with uncertainty over the prospect of further easing from the European Central Bank pressuring global equities and bonds.
I’m about to hand over the blog to my colleagues in London but here are the main points so far:
Statements from the official KCNA news agency and the TV bulletin claimed a major breakthrough in the country’s missile and nuclear technology.
finally examined and confirmed the structure and specific features of movement of a nuclear warhead that has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets.
The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable [North Korea] to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power with a firm hold on the production of various fissile materials and technology for their use. This has definitely put on a higher level [the North’s] technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.
Here is a clip from the state TV bulletin announcing the test. Don’t worry if you don’t speak Korean – there are subtitles.
Adam Cathcart, a North Korea and China expert from Leeds University, says today’s test “arrives at a peculiar moment for the government in Beijing and presents both a political and propaganda challenge for how they respond”.
Because Chinese state media has so heavily criticised South Korea’s plans for anti-missile deployment (THAAD), the temptation will be to say, ‘We told you so,’ arguing that South Korea effectively was the provocative actor that forced North Korea into a corner.
Of course this would be to ignore the orgy of actual missile launches from North Korea. But since – according to the Chinese Communist party – Seoul has ‘opened Pandora’s box’ with the help of the USA, there exists plenty of rhetorical space for blame-shifting.
After the well-worn phrases comes the bargaining at the UN – but I don’t see much appetite for sanctions that bite deeper in terms of China’s flow of trade along the shared border.
US president Barack Obama says North Korea’s actions will have “serious consequences”, Reuters reports.
The president, who has returned to the White House after the G20 summit in China and the Asean meeting in Laos, had been briefed by National Security Adviser Susan Rice about the situation as he travelled back on Air Force One, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
China has stopped short of a full condemnation of North Korea’s nuclear upping of the ante in east Asia.
The foreign ministry in Beijing said on Friday that it was “resolutely opposed to North Korea’s latest nuclear test and strongly urges North Korea to stop taking any actions that will worsen the situation”.
Associated Press has reported more on the full statement put out on North Korean TV.
Here are the key points:
Justin McCurry in Tokyo has written a full news wrap of the day’s events so far.
Read it in full here:
As promised, world affairs editor Julian Borger has filed his analysis of the situation. He says that today’s test could force the US back to the negotiating table with North Korea.
The game-changer seems to be that the increasing number of tests shows the North could put a small warhead on a ballistic missile and therefore in theory attack another country.
Until two years ago the conventional wisdom on the North’s nuclear programme was that it was largely a political symbol of the country’s potency and a bargaining chip for economic and diplomatic benefits.
Since 2014 however the pace of nuclear and missile testing has accelerated, to the point where some experts now believe the country’s scientists have developed a nuclear warhead small enough to put on a missile.
More on North Korea’s confirmation.
State TV said the North was now capable of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets, Reuters reports. It said no leakage of nuclear material had occurred in the test and that there was no environmental impact.
#BREAKING: Test confirms nuclear warhead can be mounted on rockets: KCNA
North Korea has confirmed that it conducted a “nuclear warhead explosion” on Friday in response to “US hostility”, according to Associated Press.
BREAKING: North Korea says it has conducted a “nuclear warhead explosion” test meant to counter what Pyongyang calls U.S. hostility.
The latest test, once confirmed, shows that the sanctions-driven policy of the US and its regional allies has reached the limit of its effectiveness, according to an expert quoted by Reuters.
Tadashi Kimiya, a University of Tokyo professor specialising in Korean issues said: “Sanctions have already been imposed on almost everything possible, so the policy is at an impasse. In reality, the means by which the United States, South Korea and Japan can put pressure on North Korea have reached their limits,” he said.
Our world affairs editor, Julian Borger, who has followed the development of North Korea’s nuclear programme for years, says the test indicates a greater level of ambition in Pyongyang than might have been assumed before.
We’ll have his full article shortly but here is a taster:
North Korea’s fifth nuclear test confirms growing fears in the international community that the regime’s nuclear aspirations are far more far-reaching than once assumed and that Kim Jong-un is building a sizeable arsenal designed to be used if his rule comes under serious threat.
There has been no official confirmation from North Korea about whether it conducted its fifth nuclear test today or not. But a lot of evidence points in that direction at the moment. Here’s what we know:
South Korean experts believe the blast was the biggest yet carried out by its neighbours.
A defence ministry spokesman in Seoul told reporters the blast measured 10 kilotonnes, AFP reports. The North’s third nuclear test, staged in February 2013, was previously considered the most powerful to date, with a yield of six to nine kilotonnes.
The 10-kilotonne blast was nearly twice the fourth nuclear test and slightly less than the Hiroshima bombing, which was measured about 15 kilotonnes.
The South Korean president has spoken to US president Barack Obama about the North Korea nuclear test, according to the local Yonhap news agency.
Obama and Park discussed the situation while Obama was flying back to the United States from the Asean summit in Laos.
(URGENT) Park holds telephone talks with Obama on N.K. nuke test https://t.co/XX3HjQKc7q
Stock markets in the Asian time zone suffered in the wake of what Japan and South Korea have now confirmed wasa fifth nuclear test.
South Korea has joined Japan in determining that North Korea has conducted its fifth nuclear test, according to Yonhap.
South Korea’s KBS Radio quoted a defence ministry official in Seoul as confirming that Friday morning’s earthquake was caused by a nuclear detonation.
(LEAD) S. Korea: N. Korea’s nuke test blatant dismissal of int’l consensus https://t.co/hj0MWKEN90
(2nd LD) Park condemns apparent N.K. nuke test https://t.co/UHueluyeuR
South Korean president Park Geun-hye also appears to have confirmed that Seoul believes the North has carried out a nuclear test.
Quoting her office, Reuters says Park said that the North’s fifth nuclear test showed the country’s leader Kim Jong-un was guilty of “maniacal recklessness” in completely ignoring the world’s call to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Japan’s government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, has told reporters that the government had determined that Friday’s earthquake was caused by a North Korean nuclear test. Suga did not explain how Japanese officials had arrived at that conclusion.
The Japanese have also lodged a protest with the North Koreans, the Kyodo news agency said.
North Korea’s nuclear programme, which has brought sanctions from the UN, began in the 1980s and the first nuclear bomb test was in 2006.
A useful timeline setting out the development of the programme and other missile tests can be found here:
If this does turn out to be a nuclear test – and we’re still waiting some kind of confirmation from North Korea or the international community – much of the focus will be on what type of bomb was tested.
This would be the country’s fifth nuclear test. The last one was in January this year and there was considerable debate about what type of bomb was involved. A very good explainer about this was written here by our own Michael Safi.
Seismogram of today’s M5.3 explosion in North Korea compared to their nuclear test from 8 months ago. pic.twitter.com/SgtngDQ3Za
North Korea media has been quiet so far but today is the 68th anniversary of the country’s founding by Kim Il-sung, grandfather of the current leader Kim Jong-un.
Our man in Tokyo, Justin McCurry, says that Japan’s Kyodo news agency reports from Beijing that North Korean state TV has not reported on the suspected nuclear test.
Chinese state media have published a photograph of children at a primary school in Yanbian, a city near the North Korean border, who were evacuated from class following the suspected test.
The students were taken out of the building to avoid “potential danger,” reports say.
The US National Security Council says it is monitoring the situation in Korea.
A spokesman, Ned Price, said:
We are aware of seismic activity on the Korean Peninsula in the vicinity of a known North Korean nuclear test site. We are monitoring and continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with our regional partners.
There has been a lot of reaction to the possible nuclear test, which happened at 9.30am local time on Friday (1.30am BST).
Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, said the test “could not be tolerated” and that Japan would protest strongly to Pyongyang if confirmed, Reuters reported.
Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe: Need to cooperate with U.S., other nations over N. Korea. Must lodge strong protest if N. Korea did nuclear test.
We think that there is a possibility that this quake occurred because North Korea carried out a nuclear test.
#BREAKING North Korea nuclear test its ‘most powerful to date’: Yonhap quoting South Korean military
The 5.3 seismic event would indicate that North Korea has detonated its biggest nuclear device so far – if indeed it turns out to be a nuclear test, according to an analyst quoted by Reuters.
Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies said the magnitude pointed to a 20- to 30-kilotonne yield. Lewis, using the North’s official title of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said:
That’s the largest DPRK test to date, 20-30kt, at least. Not a happy day. Yield estimates are always kind of approximate. The point is that it is the biggest one to date unless they revise the yield downward.
North Korea watchers have reported that activity around the country’s nuclear test site at Sungjibaegam had been building in recent months.
Two months ago, the US-based 38 North, a North Korea monitoring project, said satellite images showed a high level of activity at the site, called Punggye-ri.
The South Korean government says it believes the “earthquake” detected in North Korea this morning was caused by a nuclear test.
The Yonhap news agency quoted a government source as saying there was a “high possibility” that the 5.3 seismic event was triggered by a nuclear explosion. The
N.K. seen as having conducted nuclear test: gov’t source https://t.co/trTWxbvQpn
North Korea has carried out a suspected nuclear bomb test after a seismic “explosion” was recorded by the US Geological Survey near the country’s military test site.
There was no confirmation of the test but it was carried out at ground level, the US Geological Survey said, and was described as an explosion. Natrurally occurring seismic events usually take place below the Earth’s surface.