North Korea nuclear test 'a clear threat to world peace'
As UN Security Council prepares for emergency meeting, the big question is whether China will lose its patience
NORTH KOREA has drawn international condemnation after confirming earlier today that it has carried out an underground nuclear test.
Pyongyang announced that it had detonated a "miniaturised" nuclear device after geologists recorded a "artificial earthquake" at a site in the north-east of the country where previous tests were carried out in 2006 and 2009.
The country's official news agency said the seven-kiloton blast was in response to "outrageous" hostility from the US to previous long-range rocket tests by the country, that have prompted more sanctions against the communist regime of Kim Jong Un.
The test had been widely predicted but there are now real fears that the rogue state could be close to developing a weapon that could be fired at the US.
Condemnation of the test was immediate. Foreign Secretary William Hague called for "a robust response" from the UN and warned the North Koreans that they face further isolation.
US President Barack Obama called for "swift and credible action by the international community" while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon described the test as "deplorable", "deeply destabilising" and a "clear and grave violation of UN resolutions".
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation said the test constituted "a clear threat to international peace".
An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council has been called in New York today to discuss how the world should respond to the test. Japan and South Korea have already held emergency meetings.
The West will be anxious to gather as much detail on the test as possible, says the Daily Telegraph, in order to find out "what it reveals about the technical level of the North's nuclear weapons programme".
The BBC says that North Korea's claim to have tested a "miniaturised" device will have "alarmed" observers. "The US and North Korea's neighbours fear Pyongyang's ultimate goal is to produce a nuclear device small enough to fit on a long-range missile," it explains.
"The trouble - as ever - is what the international community can do in response without triggering an even bigger crisis," says correspondent Lucy Williamson. The focus, she says, will be on the response of China.
The Chinese have signaled their growing concern by agreeing to tighter UN sanctions in the wake of North Korea’s December rocket launch. The timing of today’s test could test their patience further.
"The test was carried out in the depths of a ten-day national shutdown as China - the only country with any serious influence over Pyongyang - celebrates New Year," The Times said.
National Public Radio says that while Beijing is not expected to abandon North Korea, "it appears to be reassessing ties" a year after Kim Jong Un took office. "The question is for how long China, itself under new leader Xi Jinping, will continue to back North Korea's nettlesome policies."
Richard Bush, director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, told NPR: "Perhaps Kim Jong Un thinks Xi Jinping will indulge him. Perhaps he's in for a surprise."
The Washington Post said the test was the clearest sign yet that Kim Jong Un "like his father and grandfather, prefers to confront the United States and its allies rather than make peace with them".