NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA:
Rogue nation takes another step in bid for nuclear arsenal
Tremors that emanated Friday from North Korea’s nuclear test site alerted the world to another step in that country’s march to develop long-range missiles tipped with nuclear warheads.
WASHINGTON — Tremors that emanated Friday from North Korea’s nuclear test site alerted the world to another crucial step that the isolated nation had made in its defiant, decadelong march to develop long-range missiles tipped with lightweight nuclear warheads.
The man-made earthquake, detected by U.S. instruments Friday at 5.3 in magnitude, was more powerful than any of the previous underground tests conducted by the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — indicating that the weapon detonated with a yield of about 10 kilotons.
The test, when coupled with the three successful ballistic missile launches earlier in the week, offered a hint to world leaders that North Korean engineers and scientists are making another incremental, yet significant, step in their nuclear weapons program.
Two of the nation’s five successful nuclear detonations have occurred in the last eight months. Over that same period, the military has made an unprecedented 21 ballistic missile launches — more than four times as many as North Korea had ever fired.
State-run media in the capital of Pyongyang made a number of assertions Friday, saying North Korea had become a full-fledged nuclear weapons state, had a standardized weapon design and possessed warheads small enough to be affixed to ballistic missiles.
It characterized the Friday tests as a “higherlevel” nuclear warhead explosion that would prepare the country to retaliate against any “provocation” by “U.S.-led hostile forces.”
The test drew condemnation from across Asia and exacerbated fears that the communist country is making progress toward its goal of developing the technology to unleash a nuclear strike on the U.S.
The apparent advancements have come despite a range of United Nations sanctions t hat have ground the North Korean economy to a halt. The U.N. Security Council convened an emergency meeting Friday in New York.
President Barack Obama issued a statement promising “additional significant steps,” including more sanctions, against North Korea.
“Far from achieving its stated national security and economic development goals, North Korea’s provocative and destabilizing actions have instead served to isolate and impoverish its people through its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities,” Obama said.
After North Korea’s latest nuclear test this week, the responses from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were starkly different.
Clinton, the former secretary of state under Obama, released a detailed statement Friday, calling the action by North Korea “outrageous and unacceptable.”
“I strongly condemn this reckless action, which — coupled with its recent series of missile launches — makes clear Pyongyang’s determination to develop a deliverable nuclear weapon,” she said, alluding to four previous nuclear tests.
“This constitutes a direct threat to the United States, and we cannot and will never accept this,” she said.
As Clinton voiced staunch support for Obama’s call to strengthen United Nations sanctions against the country, the Trump campaign had a different message: Clinton and Obama are not strong leaders.
“North Korea’s fifth nuclear test, the fourth since Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, is yet one more example of Hillary Clinton’s catastrophic failures,” said Jason Miller, a spokesman for Trump. “Clinton promised to work to end North Korea’s nuclear program as secretary of state, yet the program has only grown in strength and sophistication.”
American defense officials expressed concern that the tests demonstrate a new level of sophistication, though nongovernment experts in the U.S. are still hungering for evidence or formal analyses of where North Korean technology and industrial capability stand.
Joel Wit, a founder of the 38north.org website affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University, said North Korea almost certainly has achieved a capability to place a nuclear weapon on a regional ballistic missile that could threaten South Korea, Japan, China or Russia, as well as U.S. bases in the region, where tens of thousands of American troops are deployed.
But the nuclear device developed by North Korea is rudimentary by U.S. standards. South Korea’s military said the early indication is that North Korea’s test created a blast of 10 kilotons in yield, which is less than the atomic bomb that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima in World War II.
Even China, North Korea’s only real ally, which has used its diplomatic sway to shield North Korea from punishment, issued a statement condemning the detonation.
South Koreans protest during a Friday rally against the anti-missile defense designed to counter North Korea’s missiles.