North Korea conducted nuclear test biggest yet
The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed the nuclear test conducted by North Korea on Tuesday.
"There was a blast," a ministry source told Interfax-AVN.
The KCNA news agency of North Korea reported about the successful underground nuclear test on Tuesday. It said the test of the "miniature explosive device" was conducted precisely to plan. The South Korean Defense Ministry estimated the explosion carried out in North Korea at six or seven kilotons.
When asked about accuracy of the South Korean estimates of the explosion's force, the source claimed "it was larger." The explosion's force can be estimated more precisely "after the data obtained by the Special-Purpose Control Service is processed," he added.
The North Korean nuclear blast epicenter was one kilometer underground, yet no harmful atmospheric discharges have been detected, Roshydromet situational center head Yuri Varakin told Interfax on Tuesday.
"Radiation levels are normal so far, which is proven with measurements done at stationary and mobile posts," Varakin said. "If any discharge or abnormal situation has happened, that would have been noticed. Tests are done underground to prevent atmospheric discharges and contamination."
Russian chief public health official Gennady Onishchenko aslo confirmed that the nuclear test conducted by North Korea did not increase radiation levels in Russia.
"Everything is normal and [the levels] correspond to the natural background," he said.
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed indignation toward North Korea's stance.
North Korean nuclear tests timeline
October 2, 2006 – North Korean foreign minister announces that the country will conduct a nuclear test.
October 9, 2006 – North Korea detonates a nuclear device with an estimated explosive force of less than one kiloton. China, which had reportedly attempted to convince the regime not to go ahead with the test, was given a 20 minute warning and flashed an emergency alert to Washington.
May 25, 2009 – North Korea detonates a second nuclear device and launches a number of short-range surface-to-air missiles. The yield of the test was put at close to 5 kilotons.
April 2012 – An effort to launch a satellite ends in failure, but is condemned around the world as a disguised ballistic missile launch.
December 2012 – North Korea successfully launches a rocket based on ballistic missile technology. The launch is widely criticised and triggers renewed sanctions.
January 2013 – Dismissing the sanctions, North Korea confirms that it plans to go ahead with a third nuclear test.
"We condemn this move of North Korea and view it in the context of the earlier test launch of a ballistic missile carrying a satellite as a breach of UN Security Council resolutions," a source from the ministry stressed.
Likewise, State Duma Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Franz Klintsevich (United Russia) has urged economic sanctions against North Korea to be imposed by the UN Security Council.
"I am confident that the UN Security Council will evaluate the latest nuclear test conducted by North Korea. Personally, I would support strict economic sanctions against the country which continues to obstruct international monitoring," Klintsevich told Interfax on Tuesday.
He emphasized that North Korea issued an early test notification to South Korea and Japan but did not do the same for Russia although the two states had a common border.
"That is a very serious factor but I am confident that our armed forces can intercept a North Korean missile in the case of an unsuccessful launch and nothing endangers our country," the deputy said.
The ongoing nuclear tests in North Korea "show that the UN Security Council should not only impose economic sanctions but also categorically demand access of international monitors," he said.
Although Russian authorities are concerned with North Korea's another nuclear test, some experts are skeptical about the country's nuclear potential.
"Probably, North Korea has opened the door to the nuclear club but its capacity is zilch and the time span between the tests is very big," said Igor Linge, an expert from the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Problems in the Safe Development of Nuclear Energy.
"Judging by historical experience, I think that North Korea will need five to seven years of work under colossal strain to join the nuclear club. I do not know if North Korea is capable of doing that. The mission may be accomplished if powerful resources are available," he added. "So far material is being produced quietly and seldom tests take place. And still the capacities are nil."
Linge presumed that the North Korean nuclear test would not increase radiation levels in Russia.
"Underground nuclear explosions can cause local contamination only under extremely unfavorable circumstances. There have been plenty of such tests, the experience is vast. There is no threat to Russia," Linge said.
Other pundits argue that the nuclear test conducted by North Korea will lead to new sanctions.
"Attempts to make the DPRK stop with warnings and sanctions are not quite successful," said Alexander Vorontsov from the Russian Academy of Science's Oriental Studies Institute. "The situation is not quite optimistic as anti-North Korean feelings are rather strong in the United States. The U.S. keeps on seeing a solution of this problem through the prism of stricter sanctions and bigger military-political pressure. Hence, new steps are inevitable."
North Korea may stop nuclear tests only after Washington guarantees its security, he said.
"It can be stopped only with serious negotiations and a serious agenda," the expert argue. "The DPRK has described its idea of security parameters more than once, primarily, as advancement towards real normalization with the United States. In the first turn, this means negotiations between the United States and North Korea, in which North Korea may receive real security guarantees."