Will can test if U.S. agrees to talks, S. Korean reports
WASHINGTON - North Korea said it detonated a nuclear device underground early today, ending speculation over whether the Communist regime had indeed successfully built a weapon of mass destruction.
Though the White House said it could not yet confirm the test had actually occurred, a U.S. official told the Daily News early today that the test was the "real deal."
North Korea said it conducted the nuclear test at 10:36 a.m. - 9:36 p.m. Eastern time yesterday in the U.S. The U.S. and other nations carefully studied seismic data and other intelligence to review whether the nuclear event had taken place.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that it recorded a 4.2 magnitude "seismic event" in northeastern North Korea. The Colorado-based agency said it was unable to tell whether the event was the result of an atomic explosion or a natural earthquake. China, North Korea's only ally, was the first superpower to condemn the nuclear test, calling it "brazen." It demanded Pyongyang stop any action that could worsen the situation.
A South Korean expert said North Korea's test was relatively small, equivalent to 550 tons of TNT. South Korea's cabinet went into an emergency session.
The Chinese government reportedly got a heads up from North Korea 20 minutes before the test was conducted, and Beijing then passed the information to the U.S. and Russia.
"It marks a historic event," North Korea's state-run Central News Agency said in a statement. "It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in the area around it."
The test was believed to have been conducted near Kilju city on North Korea's northeast coast. Asian markets dropped sharply immediately after word spread that the North Koreans had exploded an atomic weapon.
The North Korean regime headed by Kim Jong Il had been warning for days that it planned to conduct the underground test. The UN Security Council is expected to convene in an emergency session today to take up the issue.
The U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, is expected to call for sanctions and hopes to enlist the support of Russia and China to put pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
The so-called six-party talks - involving China, Russia, the U.S., Japan, South Korea and North Korea - have so far failed to persuade North Korea to alter its nuclear course.
Most military analysts contend that there is no practical military option that the U.S. can take against North Korea to halt its nuclear program.
With News Wire Services
Originally published on October 9, 2006