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by Mike Zazaian October 9, 2006 - 11:10am, 4 Comments

North Korea Detonates Nuclear Warhead

White House officials confirmed this morning that the North Korean government has successfully detonated a nuclear warhead in underground caverns beneath Hamgyong Province.

Detonation of the bomb was initially reported by an employee at South Korea’s seismic monitoring center. The employee, who chose to remain anonymous, reported a magnitude-3.6 earthquake that was noted not to be a natural occurrence. The official notified the Associated Press of the event, and both the White House and the South Korean government confirmed shortly thereafter that it had been caused by a nuclear detonation in North Korea.

The test, which comes just one day after the ninth anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s rise to power, was estimated by a South Korean expert as exerting the force of 550 tons of TNT or a relatively small bomb. According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the test was conducted at 01:36 GMT in the the province of North Hamkyung.

Players on both sides of the controversy were immediately astir, with both pro and anti-North-Korean parties speaking passionately about the event. North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described the event as:

A stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a great prosperous powerful socialist nation. It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the…people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability. It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it.

On the opposition, Tony Blair described North Korea’s actions as, A completely irresponsible act, while Japanese officials condemed the test as unpardonable. While the White House has yet to officially comment on the matters, Chief North Korean negotiator Christopher Hill was quoted last week as saying, I am not prepared at this point to say what we are going to do, but I am prepared to say we are not going to wait for a nuclear North Korea, we are not going to accept it.

It remains to be seen what actions the US will take in the wake of the tests, but even with this morning’s detonation North Korea isn’t seen as an immediate threat. An article in The Economist noted, North Korea’s nuclear capabilities are more likely to pose a greater risk to North Koreans than to the neighbours. While no radioactive leaks were reported by the KCNA in the aforementioned article, it’s entirely possible the radioactive fallout could affect the air and water in areas surrounding North Hamkyung. But even as irresponsible as Kim Jong Il might be in posing a potential threat posed to his own citizens, this morning’s test cement’s his intentions as fully resolute. It’s now up to the US government, which has been most vocal in its sentiments against North Korea’s nuclear progam, to respond.

[via The Register]