News / Asia

    S. Korea, Japan Move to Bolster Defenses After North's Nuclear Test

    South Korean protesters burn the pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an anti-North Korea rally following a nuclear test conducted by North Korea, in Seoul, South Korea, February 12, 2013.
    South Korean protesters burn the pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an anti-North Korea rally following a nuclear test conducted by North Korea, in Seoul, South Korea, February 12, 2013.
    North Korea is being sharply criticized for conducting a third nuclear test Tuesday. The underground explosion is in defiance of previous United Nations Security Council resolutions that followed similar nuclear tests. One immediate result is tough talk by South Korea and Japan  -- both U.S. allies -- about bolstering their defensive capabilities.

    North Korean state media hail the nuclear test as a success, saying it "did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment."

    A television announcer in Pyongyang says the country detonated a "miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force" than previous tests.

    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.
    Analysts say that indicates North Korea may have set off a plutonium-fueled bomb, suitable to be placed atop a missile.

    There has been speculation North Korea has been enriching uranium for use in its nuclear weapons.

    North Korea is believed to have only enough plutonium for a small number of weapons. But a supply of domestically enriched uranium would allow it to have a larger nuclear arsenal.

    Related video report by Jerome Socolovsky

    Stakes High After Third North Korean Nuclear Testi
    X
    February 12, 2013 12:01 PM
    North Korea has conducted a third nuclear weapons in violation of United Nations sanctions. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that the stakes are higher this time than with previous tests in 2006 and 2009.

    Japan and the United States have deployed aircraft with special equipment to collect radioactive gases. An analysis of those gases could determine what type of nuclear material was used.

    South Korean officials say tremors recorded by seismographs around the world suggest the device has a yield of six to seven kilotons.

    North Korean Nuclear Tests

    2006
    • Carried out underground at Punggye-ri
    • Powered by plutonium
    • Released radioactive materials

    2009
    • Carried out underground at Punggye-ri
    • Seismic signals were consistent with a nuclear test
    • Radioactive material was not detected
    North Korea claimed an initial underground test in 2006, but some scientists contend that one might not have triggered a nuclear explosion. A second nuclear test North Korea claimed in 2009 had an estimated yield of two to seven kilotons. By comparison, the U.S. nuclear bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in the final days of WWII in 1945 carried a yield of about 20 kilotons.

    Chun Young-woo, South Korea's presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security, says Seoul is maintaining a high readiness posture amid concerns of more provocations by Pyongyang.

    Chun says to protect South Korean people and property from North Korean nuclear and missile threats, the government is expanding its military capability. He explains that will include deploying missiles, as soon as feasible, that will be capable of hitting a target anywhere in North Korea.

    Copies of an extra edition of a Japanese newspaper reporting North Korea's nuclear test are handed out to passers-by in Tokyo Feb. 12, 2013.Copies of an extra edition of a Japanese newspaper reporting North Korea's nuclear test are handed out to passers-by in Tokyo Feb. 12, 2013.
    x
    Copies of an extra edition of a Japanese newspaper reporting North Korea's nuclear test are handed out to passers-by in Tokyo Feb. 12, 2013.
    Copies of an extra edition of a Japanese newspaper reporting North Korea's nuclear test are handed out to passers-by in Tokyo Feb. 12, 2013.
    Japan, which also has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, is feeling increasingly vulnerable as a potential target of a nuclear missile fired from North Korea.

    In a VOA interview just hours after the nuclear test, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera termed it a big threat not only to Japan, but all of East Asia.

    The minister says Japan will need to bolster its defenses to counter such a threat, but the country's pacifist constitution prevents Japan from acquiring its own nuclear weapons and limits the scope of its forces. So, Onodera says, it is very important to strengthen the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

    The two previous North Korean tests took place under the leadership of Kim Jong Il.  This is the first such event ordered by his young son, Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his late father. It comes two months after North Korea launched a long-range rocket with a satellite into orbit.

    That was also in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting Pyongyang from utilizing ballistic missile technology.

    • An extra edition of a Japanese newspaper was delivered reporting North Korea's nuclear test, in Tokyo, February 12, 2013.
    • South Korean protesters burn a North Korean flag following a report of the nuclear test conducted by North Korea, in Seoul, South Korea, February 12, 2013.
    • Japan Meteorological Agency's earthquake and tsunami observations division director Akira Nagai points to a spot on the map showing the quake center during a news conference in Tokyo, February 12, 2013.
    • South Korean soldiers check military fences as they patrol near the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea, in Paju, north of Seoul, February 12, 2013.
    • A screen grab of the Nuclear Test Facility site in North Korea, via Google Maps satellite view.
    • South Korean soldiers monitor computers at the Seoul train station following a report about a possible nuclear test conducted by North Korea, February 12, 2013.
    • A video grab from KCNA shows the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket launching at North Korea's West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the satellite control center in Cholsan county, North Pyongang province December 12, 2012.
    • North Koreans celebrate the successful launch of the Unha-3 rocket at Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang December 14, 2012. The sign reads: "Let's glorify dignity and honor of great people of Kim Il Sung and of Korea of Kim Jong Il in the world!"

    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
    February 12, 2013 10:06 AM
    The UN resolutions condemning North Korea for nuclear underground tests are of no avail. Increasing the defenses of South Korea and Japan does not stop the nuclear threat of North Korea. The security alliance of Japan-US also do not deter North Korean nuclear armament. The on and off six party talks is only helping North Korea to buy time for nuclear developments. China is the only country capable of restraining North Korea. Instead of focusing on North Korea, the countries threatened by North Korea should focus on restraining China.
    In Response

    by: Truong Tiep from: Mississippi, USA
    February 12, 2013 5:56 PM
    I agree with Davis K. Thanjan. If we can restrain China looks like we cut off the head of the snake . All people in south east and far east asia knew this.

    by: Mark from: USA
    February 12, 2013 9:46 AM
    North Korea has been behaving like a bad neighbor in the international community. Several of the community members have decided not to trade with or assist them because of that.

    I don't see how any rational nation can construe that as being a "hostile action against North Korea" or "nuclear war action" as North Korean media has reported. It is the right of every nation to decide who they want to do business with.

    When North Korea becomes a good neighbor and a partner for peace in the region they'll get the respect they're seeking from the international community. Right now they (their leaders) are acting like spoiled brats.

    If China is willing, it would seem like this is a great opportunity to show the world that they are ready to be leaders in modern geo-politics.
    In Response

    by: Sherry Chen from: LA
    February 12, 2013 12:16 PM
    As people mentioned, N Korea acts as a bad neighbor of many countries, two of which are severely threaten should be China and S Korea. It is unwise to support N Korea developing any form of nuclear weapons from the view of chinese, since the distance of nuclear missile lauchers and Beijing is so short. A famous chinese saying goes "how can let a tiger sleep beside my bed?" By analysis of consequence of N korean unclear weapons producing, N korean can easily ask china for aid further by bully and threaten and get rid of chinese supervise.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.