North Korea Conducts Successful Nuclear Test

North Korea has successfully detonated a nuclear device in the Northeastern province of Hamgyong, causing an explosion with a magnitude of 5.1.
February 12th, 2013

SEOUL – North Korea has successfully detonated a nuclear device in the Northeastern province of Hamgyong, causing an explosion with a magnitude of 5.1, geological surveys in China and the U.S. said.

The detonation originated at a depth of about 1 kilometer in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province, 378km (235mi) NE of Pyongyang at 1157KST and attracted strong condemnation from the U.S., China and Russia.

“We can confirm that the test was conducted safely and perfectly at a high level, did not negatively affect the surrounding environment and was conducted with a higher-yield, smaller, lighter atomic device” North Korea’s official state mouthpiece the KCNA said.

“The test was to defend our country’s safety and sovereignty against the U.S.’s aggressive behavior that infringed upon our republic’s lawful right to peacefully launch a satellite”

Pyongyang gave “advanced notice” of the test to the U.S. and China, a South Korean official told the Yonhap news agency. John Swenson-Wright, Chatham House fellow and Senior Lecturer in East Asian International Relations at the University of Cambridge said:

“Reports from South Korea that the North had informed the US and China a day before the test are unusual. This may indicate a desire (perhaps misguided and naive) on the part of Pyongyang to minimize the political consequences of having tested.”

The test also comes amidst preparations for Kim Jong Il’s birthday on February 16th. North Korean propaganda has focused extensively on ‘Kim Jong Il Patriotism’ following the late leader’s death, and a successful test is therefore likely to fulfil a useful propaganda role domestically, an NK NEWS analyst said. “It will, of course, also serve a useful domestic purpose for overseas governments looking to justify tougher action and more sanctions on North Korea”, they added.

On January 26th, Kim Jong Un met with officials in the fields of state security and foreign affairs, military chiefs of staff and the minsters of State Security and Foreign Affairs, in a possible indication of today’s detonation.

South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye received an emergency briefing from transition team officials Tuesday on what appeared to be North Korea’s third nuclear test, officials said. President Lee has announced an emergency meeting with the president-elect at 1600KST.

Current estimates put the yield of the device as 6 to 7 kilotonnes. The first device detonated by North Korea in October 2006 produced an explosive yield at less than 1 kiloton of TNT. A second test in May 2009 was believed to be approximately in the range of 2-4 kilotons. North Korea has not previously claimed the “miniaturization” of a device.

“It’s possible that North Korea might be privately disappointed by the results and may, consequently, be seeking to hype the ‘success’ of the test by claiming it represents successful miniaturization. It’s hard though to see how such a claim could be corroborated and for now we are in something of a guessing game in seeking to determine how appreciably the North has enhanced its nuclear capabilities” Dr. Swenson-Wright added.

The United Nations Security Council has scheduled a meeting for 0900EST tomorrow.

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About the Author

Chad O'Carroll

Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.