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Atomic Tremor: North Korea Confirms Nuclear Detonation

Pyongyang admits conducting third nuclear test as world reacts with anger

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A seismic tremor detected inside North Korea on Tuesday has been confirmed by both the North Korean government and their South Korean neighbors to have been caused by the detonation of a nuclear device, according to news agencies on both ends of the peninsula.

The test, according to a North Korean government statement released to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), said the device used was smaller than that used in the country's previous two nuclear tests, but had "great explosive power."

"The high-level nuclear test, unlike in the past, had more explosive power and involved a miniaturized and lighter atomic bomb and was staged safely and perfectly," the statement read.

According to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency:

Seoul's Korea Meteorological Administration detected a magnitude 4.9 tremor at 11:57:50 a.m. with its epicenter located in Kilju County. The area, located in North Hamgyeong Province in the northeastern part of the communist country, is home to the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test complex that was used in the 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests. Other seismic detection agencies in other countries also picked up the artificial quake.

The North's KCNA said that the atomic weapon test is in response to the encroachment on the country's sovereignty following the launch of the Unha-3 rocket on Dec. 12. It said the test will bolster the country's defense against security threats from abroad. The report added that latest test will ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the surrounding region.

Media outlets around the globe focused on the size of the device, as it could indicate a more advanced ability to place a nuclear warhead on a North Korean ballistic missile.

Also confirming the third nuclear test by its neighbor and rival, South Korea's government issued a statement which stated Pyongyang's nuclear activities violated past U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and posed an "unacceptable threat" to peace and stability in the region.

In response to the news, the UN body is expected to convene an emergency meeting in New York on Tuesday morning to discuss the matter. Already, however, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon released a statement condemning the nuclear test.

"The secretary-general condemns the underground nuclear weapon test conducted by [North Korea] today," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement. "It is a clear and grave violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions."

The United States quickly condemned the move as well, with President Obama releasing a statement calling the act "threatening" and vowing "swift and credible action" by the international community in response.

China, one of North Korea's strongest allies also voiced dismay after warning its impoverished and isolated neighbor to refrain from provocative acts and urging it to de-nuclearize its weapons programs.

"We strongly urge the DPRK [North Korea] to honor its commitment to denuclearization, and not to take any actions which might worsen the situation," the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

Al-Jazeera adds:

In neighboring South Korea, President Lee Myung-bak held emergency meetings in an underground bunker in his office building.

"We have strengthened the readiness of our military by increasing the security alert level to level two," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said. 

"We have also operated the South Korea-US joint surveillance platform to closely monitor North Korea's military movements."

Meanwhile Iran, hit by UN sanctions for its controversial nuclear program that the West believes is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, called for the destruction of all atomic weapons after North Korea's test.

"We need to come to the point where no country has any nuclear weapons and at the same time all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms need to be destroyed," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

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