THE UN Security Council has pledged to pursue new sanctions against North Korea, condemning its latest nuclear test as a “clear violation” of previous resolutions.
The sanctions would be the fifth round imposed on the Asian nation since the country’s first nuclear test in 2006.
The sanctions are aimed at reining in the North’s nuclear missile development, but Pyongyang has ignored them and moved ahead with programs to modernise its ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
The Security Council held an emergency meeting after North Korea announced its first hydrogen bomb test, which would mark a major advance for its still-limited nuclear arsenal.
The announcement was met with scepticism, however, with South Korea’s spy agency saying the estimated explosive yield from the explosion was much smaller than what even a failed H-bomb detonation would produce.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the test “deeply troubling” and “profoundly destabilising for regional security”.
“This test once again violates numerous Security Council resolutions despite the united call by the international community to cease such activities,” he said. “It is also a grave contravention of the international norm against nuclear testing. I demand the DPRK (North Korea) cease any further nuclear activities and meet its obligations for verifiable denuclearisation.”
North Korea said it had successfully conducted a test of a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear device on Wednesday morning, marking a significant advance in the isolated state’s strike capabilities and ringing alarm bells in Japan and South Korea.
China, North Korea’s closest ally, says the test was carried out in defiance of the international community and urged North Korea to refrain from acts that might worsen tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Chinese officials said the quake was a “suspected explosion” that took place at 9.30am Beijing time (12.30pm AEDT) at ground level.
A confirmed test would mark another big step toward Pyongyang’s goal of building a warhead that can be mounted on a missile capable of reaching the US mainland.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement on Wednesday that the action “confirms North Korea’s status as a rogue state and a continuing threat to international peace and security.”
French President Francois Hollande said in a statement that “France condemns this unacceptable violation of Security Council resolutions and calls for a strong reaction from the international community.”
The foreign ministry of Russia, also a permanent Security Council member, denounced the test as a “flagrant violation of international law and existing UN Security Council resolutions”.
“Such actions are fraught with the possibility of aggravating the situation on the Korean peninsula, which already has a very high potential for military and political confrontation,” it said.
Speaking in Beijing, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the test was “a grave breach of UN Security Council resolutions and a provocation”.
The United States further slammed North Korea’s “provocations” and vowed to respond.
“While we cannot confirm these claims at this time, we condemn any violation of UNSC (United Nations Security Council) resolutions and again call on North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.
South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye convened an emergency national security council meeting and vowed a tough response.
Park said at the start of the meeting that the government “must get North Korea to face corresponding measures based on closed co-operation with the international community.”
She said: “It’s not only grave provocation of our national security, but also an act that threatens our lives and future. It’s also a direct challenge to world peace and stability.”
Park also ordered the military to bolster its combined defence posture with the US military, saying South Korea will sternly deal with any additional provocation by North Korea.
She called for a swift, accurate analysis on the North’s claim to have conducted a hydrogen bomb test.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test a threat to his nation’s safety.
“We absolutely cannot allow this, and condemn it strongly,” Abe said.
He called it a violation of the UN Security Council agreements that is against the global efforts toward nuclear disarmament.
Abe said he will take “strong action,” and work with other nations, the US, South Korea, China and Russia, as well as through the UN.
It is difficult to verify North Korea’s claims and other nations will be rushing to investigate the announcement.
The statement continued: “Through the test conducted with indigenous wisdom, technology and efforts, the DPRK fully proved the technological specifications of the newly developed H-bomb for the purpose of the test were accurate and scientifically verified the power of smaller H-bomb.
“The test means a higher stage of the DPRK’s development of nuclear force. By succeeding in the H-bomb test in the most perfect manner to be specially recorded in history the DPRK proudly joined the advanced ranks of nuclear weapons states possessed of even H-bomb and the Korean people came to demonstrate the spirit of the dignified nation equipped with the most powerful nuclear deterrent.”
The US Geological Survey placed the explosion at a location 19km east-northest of Sungjibaegam and 376km north east of the capital, Pyongyang.
The agency measured the magnitude of the resulting seismic activity at 5.1.
An official from the Korea Metrological Administration, South Korea’s weather agency, said it believed the earthquake was caused artificially based on their analysis of the seismic waves and that it originated 49 kilometres north of Kilju, the northeastern area where North Korea’s main nuclear test site is located.
The country conducted all three previous atomic detonations there.
North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February 2013.
Pyongyang is thought to have a handful of crude nuclear weapons. The US and its allies worry about North Korean nuclear tests because each new blast brings the country closer to perfecting its nuclear arsenal.
Since the elevation of young leader Kim Jong-un in 2011, North Korea has ramped up angry rhetoric against the leaders of allies Washington and Seoul and the US-South Korean annual military drills it considers invasion preparation.
The China Earthquake Network Centre registered the depth of the seismic activity as zero kilometres and the magnitude as 4.9.
The notice was similar to one given by China in 2013 following an earthquake in North Korea which turned out to have been caused by a nuclear test.
Beijing is a close ally of Pyongyang but relations have become more strained in recent years, in part because of the North’s persistence with its nuclear program in the face of international condemnation. China condemned the 2013 nuclear test.