North Korea Goes Nuclear For Third Time

The underground test used a smaller and lighter device but with greater explosive force, and has China, the U.S. and the U.N. condemning the act.

After a month of rhetoric, North Korea finally did it, detonating a nuclear device today. The explosion--the rogue state's third nuclear test--left the rest of the world scrabbling for ways to condemn it. President Obama, whose State of the Union address is tonight, called it a "highly provocative act," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called it "deeply destabilizing," while China stated its "firm opposition" to the test. North Korea merely stated that the test was "to protect our national security and sovereignty against the reckless hostility of the United States." National security teams in two of Pyongyang's neighbors, Japan and South Korea, were summoned for emergency meetings, with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe calling it "a grave threat" to Nippon safety, and Chun Young-woo of South Korea calling it "unacceptable."

The nuclear device was smaller and lighter than the two previous ones used, in 2006 and 2009. It follows the rocket launch of December 2012, which sent a satellite up into space, and had been widely anticipated, following the regime's ramping up of anti-American rhetoric and threats of war against South Korea last month. The state-run KCNA news agency described the test as being "carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner... [and] did not pose any negative impact on the surrounding ecological environment." Following the test, an earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale was recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey.

But what is the next step? Britain has called for a "robust response" from the U.N., but what can they do? The security council is convening at 9am EST today to discuss the situation, but, with imposed sanctions not making a blind bit of difference, perhaps the onus has to come from China. What stance should Wen Jiabao or his successor Li Keqiang, currently Wen's deputy, take against Kim Jong Un?

[Image by Flickr user (stephan)]

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