North Korea has conducted a nuclear test, the third in a series of controversial nuclear tests by Pyongyang since 2006.
The much anticipated test was announced on Tuesday by state-run KCNA news agency within hours of the United States, Japan and South Korea reporting an unusual seismic activity which they believed to be a nuclear test.
"It was confirmed that the nuclear test that was carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously," KCNA said in a statement. The government in Pyongyang added that the device, set off by the scientists, "did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment."
The reclusive communist country had carried out two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 when Kim Jong Il, father of current leader Kim Jong-un, was in power.
The statement said the underground test had been in response to "outrageous" U.S. hostility that "violently" undermined the regime's right to peacefully launch satellites - an apparent reference to U.S. condemnation of its December 12 long-range rocket launch despite call by the international community to desist from the move, and tightening of sanctions on Pyongyang.
South Korea's Defense Ministry had earlier confirmed that a 5.1-magnitude earthquake was detected near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the north-eastern part of North Korea at 11:57 a.m. local time.
The United States and Japan also detected the earthquake in North Korea, but measurements by their monitoring agencies varied. While the U.S. Geological Survey said it had detected a shallow 4.9-magnitude quake at a depth of one kilometer, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported a 5.2-magnitude tremor.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after a security meeting in Tokyo that "we consider every possible way to address this issue, including our own sanctions, while co-operating with other countries."
North Korea's latest nuclear adventure evoked immediate international condemnation.
U.S. President Barack Obama called for "swift" and "credible" international action against North Korea, adding that the "provocative" nuclear test did not make the country more secure. He vowed that the U.S. government would remain vigilant and steadfast in its defense commitments to its Asian allies.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said Kremlin "decisively condemned" the test.
A South Korean presidential spokesman decried the test as an unacceptable threat to regional peace and stability. Seoul has raised its military alert in the wake of the nuclear test.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the test as a "clear and grave violation" of U.N. resolutions and a "deeply destabilizing" provocation.
The development prompted South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan to call his U.S. counterpart John Kerry, and they agreed to take "swift and unified" action at the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) over the North's action.
Reports quoting diplomats said in response to the nuclear test that the UNSC would convene in emergency later in the day to discuss the North Korea situation.
North Korea's successful launch of a long-range rocket on December 12, defying international warnings, had triggered tougher international sanctions. In protest, North had threatened to conduct its third nuclear test, leaving the United States and its allies on edge.
Following fresh U.N. sanctions on North Korea for carrying out its second nuclear test in 2009, the impoverished country withdrew from the six-nation nuclear talks. Pyongyang's muscle flexing on its nuclear defense capability since then has evoked protests and concerns from the global community.
by RTT Staff Writer
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