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Terrorism & Security

North Korea's nuclear test sparks UN emergency meeting

Monday's explosion – the latest in a series of hard-line moves by Pyongyang – may have been 20 times more powerful than its last test in 2006.

By Jonathan Adams / May 25, 2009

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak (center) met with top security officials Monday after North Korea conducted its second nuclear test since 2006.

Presidential Blue House/AP


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North Korea carried out a nuclear test on Monday, drawing global rebukes and triggering an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting set for later in the day.

The test ratchets up tensions between North Korea and the international community, and is the latest in a series of hard-line moves by Pyongyang.

In April it test-launched a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States. It is still holding two US journalists it accuses of spying. It has also kicked out UN inspectors and withdrawn from six-nation talks on its nuclear program.

It's not the first time North Korea has tested a nuclear device – it last did so in 2006.

But Reuters reported that Monday's underground test was a far more powerful explosion than that one. (Click here for a map of the suspected test location, from the Los Angeles Times, and a graphic on how such a test is conducted, from BBC.)

"[North Korea] successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defense in every way," its [North Korea's] official KCNA news agency said.
The country's first test in October 2006 was considered to have been relatively weak, about 1 kilotonne, suggesting design problems. Russia's military said the latest test had a force of about 20 kilotonnes.

The international response has been swift, and negative. South Korea's president called an emergency meeting early Monday, after the Korea Meteorological Administration detected an "artificial earthquake" of 4.5 magnitude, according to the English-language Chosun Ilbo.

Japan, which called the test "absolutely impermissible," began working for an emergency UN Security Council meeting early Monday, and set up a special task force to deal with the crisis, according to the English-language news service of Kyodo News.

The US early Monday called North Korea's nuclear and missile tests of "grave concern to all nations," according to the Washington Post.

"North Korea's attempts to develop nuclear weapons, as well as its ballistic missile program, constitute a threat to international peace and security," [President Obama] said in a statement.

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