|North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (C) inspects
Korean People's Army unit 851 at an unidentified location in North
Korea in this August 30, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Korea News
North Korea said Monday it had performed its first nuclear weapons
test, an underground explosion that defied international warnings but was
hailed by the nation as a "great leap forward" for its people.
The reported test drew harsh rebuke from North Korea's neighbors. The
U.N. Security Council is expected to discuss the North Korean issue on
Monday, and the United States and Japan are likely to press for a
resolution imposing additional sanctions on Pyongyang.
The US Geological Survey said it had recorded a magnitude-4.2 seismic event in northeastern
North Korea. Australia and South Korea also said there was seismic
confirmation that pointed to a nuclear test.
However, Japan said it could not immediately confirm the test.
North Korea's nuclear test was equivalent to 550 tons of TNT, a
state-run South Korean geological institute said. That is relatively small
compared to the bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima, which was
equivalent to 12,500 tons of TNT.
Although North Korea has long claimed it had the capability to produce
a bomb, the reported test Monday, if confirmed, would be the first proof
of its membership in a small club of nuclear-armed nations. That would
dramatically alter the strategic balance of power in the region and
seriously undermine global anti-proliferation efforts.
The test Monday morning came a day after the ninth anniversary of North
Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as head of the Korean Workers'
Party. Tuesday will be the 61st anniversary of the party's founding.
The North warned last week it would conduct a nuclear test, sparking
frantic diplomatic efforts to head it
Condemnation of North Korea from world powers came swiftly after the
test was announced.
China, the North's closest ally, said Beijing "resolutely opposes" the
test and hopes Pyongyang will return to the six-party nuclear disarmament
Japan's top government spokesman said if confirmed, the North Korean
test would post a serious threat to the stability in the region and a
South Korea's presidential spokesman says Seoul will "sternly respond"
to North Korea nuclear test and the Defense Ministry raised the military