N. Korea sends message with nuclear test-monitor

VIENNA,  (Reuters) – North Korea’s nuclear test may be aimed at showing its foes it can deliver a missile with a warhead but it is still a long way from being able to threaten the United States, experts said.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), an international monitoring agency, said an explosion-like event that North Korea described as a nuclear test had a magnitude of 4.9. This was bigger than similar tests it carried out in 2006 and 2009.

An activist from an anti-North Korea civic group burns a portrait of North's leader Kim Jong-un during a rally against North Korea's nuclear test near the U.S. embassy in central Seoul February 12, 2013. The placards read, "Let's pulverize North Korea's nuclear war provocations!" (L) and "Kim Jong-un out!" (R) REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
An activist from an anti-North Korea civic group burns a portrait of North’s leader Kim Jong-un during a rally against North Korea’s nuclear test near the U.S. embassy in central Seoul February 12, 2013. The placards read, “Let’s pulverize North Korea’s nuclear war provocations!” (L) and “Kim Jong-un out!” (R)
REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

CTBTO executive secretary Tibor Toth said the action “constitutes a clear threat to international peace and security and challenges efforts to strengthen global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation”.

North Korea said the test, which drew swift international condemnation, had used a miniaturized device.

If it was such a device, “that suggests a weapon that could more easily be delivered by missiles, something that is especially concerning to the U.S., Japan, South Korea and others,” said Shashank Joshi, a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

Nuclear proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London said: “It won’t be possible to confirm from afar, but the claim of a successful miniaturized device is consistent with expectations that the test would be of a warhead that can fit in the nose cone of one of its missiles.”

Jim Walsh of Massachussets Institute of Technology said: “It seems as if Pyongyang wants to send the message – true or not – that it can employ a missile with a nuclear warhead and that previous problems with their nuclear tests have been overcome.”

However, North Korea still had a long way to go before it could credibly threaten the United States with nuclear weapons, said Daryl Kimball from the Arms Control Association, a U.S.-based research and advocacy group.

“It is likely to be years away from fielding an ICBM, which could deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland. There is still time to halt and reverse current trends before North Korea’s nuclear capabilities become more substantial.”

NO LIES ON TEST

An international test-ban treaty was negotiated in the 1990s but has not yet taken effect because not all holders of nuclear technology have ratified it. The Vienna-based CBTBO monitors possible breaches, looking out for signs of atomic tests, including seismic waves and radioactive traces.

Experts say it can take days or more to detect possible radioactive signs that would confirm with absolute certainty that a nuclear test had taken place.

Seen as a cornerstone of efforts to free the world of atomic bombs, the test ban treaty enjoys wide support around the world. But of the five officially recognised nuclear weapon states, the United States and China have yet to ratify it.

“Though confirmation will take some time, given the seismic signature and the important fact (North Korea) has never lied when it comes to nuclear tests, I think we can take them at their word and assume this was the explosion of a nuclear device,” a Western diplomat in Vienna said.

Kimball also said the test was an embarrassment for China’s leadership and Pyongyang may have jeopardized the aid and diplomatic support it receives from Beijing.

China criticised the previous tests but did not roll back on aid. But Beijing had signaled that if North Korea undertook further tests, it would not hesitate to reduce assistance.

“Indeed, Beijing could do much more to apply pressure. Past Chinese diplomatic and economic support has allowed North Korea to ignore world opinion, in spite of the desperate state of its economy and hunger-ravaged population. It is important that Beijing now demonstrate its last warning was sincere,” Kimball said.

Latest in World News

George Osborne

Brexit vote, UK political confusion rattles world markets for second day

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s vote last Thursday to leave the European Union continued to reverberate through financial markets yesterday, with the pound falling to its lowest level in 31 years, despite government attempts to relieve some of the confusion about the political and economic outlook.

default placeholder

Turkey mends fences with Israel, Russia in foreign policy reset

ISTANBUL/MOSCOW/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Turkey announced the restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel yesterday after a six-year rupture and expressed regret to Russia over the downing of a warplane, seeking to mend strained alliances and ease a sense of isolation on the world stage.

default placeholder

Kerry raises harassment of US diplomats in Moscow with Putin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russian harassment and surveillance of US diplomats in Moscow has increased significantly and US Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue recently with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the State Department said yesterday.

Boris Johnson

British EU vote unnerves world leaders and markets

LONDON,  (Reuters) – Britain plunged deeper into political crisis yesterday after its vote to exit the European Union last Thursday, leaving world officials and financial markets confused about how to handle the political and economic fallout.

default placeholder

Spanish vote delivers more uncertainty for Europe after Brexit

MADRID,  (Reuters) – Spanish elections delivered a hung parliament for the second time in six months yesterday, adding to political uncertainty in Europe after last week’s shock Brexit vote and piling intense pressure on Spain’s warring politicians to form a government.

default placeholder

CIA weapons for Syrian rebels sold to arms black market -NYT

(Reuters) – Weapons shipped into Jordan for Syrian rebels by the Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia were stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives and sold to arms merchants on the black market, the New York Times reported, citing American and Jordanian officials.

Jeremy Corbyn

EU vote triggers open conflict in Britain’s main parties

LONDON,  (Reuters) – Britain’s two main parties were in open conflict on Sunday after a vote to leave the EU triggered an attempted “coup” in the main opposition Labour Party and a bitter leadership contest in the ruling Conservatives.

default placeholder

Merkel sees no need to rush Britain into quick EU divorce

LONDON/BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought yesterday to temper pressure from Paris, Brussels and her own government to force Britain into negotiating a quick divorce from the EU, despite warnings that hesitation will let populism take hold.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: