North Korea carries out biggest nuclear test

North Korea has carried out its third, most powerful nuclear test despite UN warnings, and said “even stronger” action might follow.

It described the test as a “self-defensive measure” necessitated by the “continued hostility” of the US.

Its main ally, China, criticized the test, which was condemned worldwide.

Nuclear test monitors in Vienna say the underground explosion had double the force of the 2009 test, despite reportedly involving a smaller device.

If, as North Korea reports, a smaller device was tested successfully, analysts say this could take Pyongyang closer to building a warhead small enough to arm a missile.

The UN Security Council will meet at 14:00 GMT to discuss the test and its ramifications, diplomats say.

All we know at the moment about the North Korean test is gleaned from seismic data: the event was magnitude 4.9, significantly larger than the 2006 and 2009 tests.

North Korea announced last month that it would conduct a third nuclear test following those in 2006 and 2009 as a response to UN sanctions that were expanded after the secretive communist state’s December rocket launch, a move condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology.

Activity had been observed at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site for several months.

Seismic activity was then detected by monitoring agencies from several nations at 11:57 (02:57 GMT) on Tuesday. A shallow earthquake with a magnitude of 4.9 was recorded, the US Geological Survey said.

North Korea said the nuclear test – which comes just before US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address – was a response to the “reckless hostility of the United States”.

“The latest nuclear test was only the first action, with which we exercised as much self-restraint as possible,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“If the US further complicates the situation with continued hostility, we will be left with no choice but to take even stronger second or third rounds of action.”

The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization said the “explosion-like event” was twice as big as the 2009 test, which was in turn bigger than that in 2006.

It is the first such test under new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over the leadership after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.

“It is a grave threat to our nation’s safety and cannot be tolerated as it will significantly damage international society’s peace and safety” Shinzo Abe Japanese prime minister

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the test as a “clear and grave violation” of UN resolutions and a “deeply destabilizing” provocation.

Mr Obama said the test was a “highly provocative act”, and called for “swift” and “credible” international action in response.

China expressed “firm opposition” to its ally’s test, urging the North to honor its commitment to denuclearization and “not take any actions which might worsen the situation”.

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