News / Asia

    North Korea Nuclear Test Sparks Worry

    North Korean TV on Feb. 12, 2013 shows an announcer reading a statement on the country's nuclear test. (North Korean TV)North Korean TV on Feb. 12, 2013 shows an announcer reading a statement on the country's nuclear test. (North Korean TV)
    x
    North Korean TV on Feb. 12, 2013 shows an announcer reading a statement on the country's nuclear test. (North Korean TV)
    North Korean TV on Feb. 12, 2013 shows an announcer reading a statement on the country's nuclear test. (North Korean TV)
    After three weeks of belligerent warnings, North Korea conducted its third test Tuesday in a nuclear weapons program that dates back to the 1960s.

    If preliminary estimates from seismic monitors in South Korea and elsewhere prove correct, this was by far Pyongyang's most powerful explosion of a nuclear device.

    U.S. President Barack Obama called the test a "highly provocative act."  His swift condemnation was echoed by governments around the world, including South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.

    According to former U.S. State Department official Mitchell Reiss, the underground blast is further confirmation that North Korea is heading "very methodically and deliberately" toward enhanced ballistic-missile and nuclear-weapons capability.  He said the dual track is extremely worrisome.

    "It is alarming enough they are doing each of those separately, but it is the combination of the two that poses significant risks to the United States and our friends and allies in the region," Reiss said.

    Later Tuesday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry warned of unspecified "second and third measures of greater intensity" if Washington maintains its hostility.

    Related video report by Luis Ramirez



    U.S. Territory Under Threat

    Analyst Bruce Klingner, who studied North Korea for years with the Central Intelligence Agency, said the continental United States is increasingly under threat by the North's progress, including a successful long-range missile test in December.

    "South Korean officials, after they resurrected the missile debris from the bottom of the ocean, estimated the rocket could have gone 6,000 [9,500 kilometers] or even 10,000 miles [16,000 kilometers], which would threaten not only Hawaii and Alaska, but even parts of the continental U.S.," Klingner said.

    The official North Korean news service claimed Tuesday's test used a "miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive capability than before."

    The South Korean Defense Ministry said the blast generated an explosive yield of between six and seven kilotons.  That is stronger than the North’s two previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, but far short of the most powerful U.S. weapons in use today, with a force of about 1,000 kilotons.

    Klingner said observers have often been dismissive of North Korea's progress because its long-range missile tests had failed until the December launch.  But that test showed the North was able to place a satellite into orbit - which scientists say is the same capability required to put a warhead "anywhere on the face of the Earth."

    Chinese Leverage

    Reiss, who is now president of Washington College in Maryland, said the blast presents a serious dilemma for the Obama administration and a new group of leaders in China, South Korea and Japan.

    "The bottom line is that the North Koreans have made a strategic decision to be a full-fledged nuclear weapons state.  The challenge right now is what the United States, our friends and allies in the region and, especially, the Chinese, are going to do about it," Reiss said.

    The location of the nuclear test site in North Korea.The location of the nuclear test site in North Korea.
    x
    The location of the nuclear test site in North Korea.
    The location of the nuclear test site in North Korea.
    In New York Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council condemned the North Korean nuclear test, calling it a "grave violation" of previous Security Council resolutions against the North's weapons programs.  Council members will begin working on what they called "appropriate measures" to punish Pyongyang for flouting its authority.

    But it is China - North Korea's last remaining major ally - that arguably has enough leverage, through its oil deliveries and other assistance, to force Pyongyang to change its behavior.

    The Chinese government issued a statement several hours after the blast expressing its "firm opposition" to the test.  But Tuesday's powerful detonation leaves some skeptical about how Beijing will react, given its increased economic ties to the North.

    "It clearly shows how little influence Beijing has, or how little it's willing to use," said Klingner.  "Indeed, their increased economic engagement with North Korea undermines any incentive for [it] to return to the six-party talks," he said.

    After the detonation, Pyongyang said the test demonstrated its nuclear deterrence has become "diversified," raising questions about whether North Korea used enriched uranium rather than reprocessed plutonium like in previous blasts.

    That worries the United States, South Korea and Japan because while the North has only enough plutonium for six to eight bombs, it can produce enriched uranium well into the future.

    Message to Iran

    Analyst Reiss said Washington should push Seoul to share intelligence with the Japanese because that would help ensure a coordinated response to the threat.  He also warned Tehran is watching the world's reaction extremely closely.

    "If the United States undertakes no sanctions, does not punish North Korea in any way, it will effectively be giving Iran a green light, or at least a suggestion, that it can go down this path as well and not really suffer any consequences," Reiss said.

    Mark Snowiss

    Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora