North Korea Detonates Third Nuclear Bomb
A U.S. Geological Survey map showing an earthquake in North Korea this morning (Feb. 12), indicating a nuclear bomb detonated underground.
A 5.1-magnitude earthquake in northeastern North Korea, which isn't considered seismically active, was the first sign. About three hours later, the state-run Korea Central News Agency confirmed that North Korea conducted its third nuclear test during what was the morning of Feb. 12 in East Asia.
According to quotes in the blog North Korea Tech, the Korea Central News Agency said it detonated a miniaturized, but still powerful, atom bomb in an underground test. The bomb was a response to U.S. condemnation of North Korea's satellite launch in December 2012, the news agency said. At the time, the United States, Japan and South Korea condemned the North Korean satellite as a part of research into an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Washington Post reported. In its statement about today's nuclear test, the Korea Central News Agency defended North Korea's "legitimate right to launch satellite for peaceful purposes."
Experts widely believe that North Korea is trying to develop a nuclear bomb that's small enough to sit on a missile, but don't believe the nation is technologically capable of such a feat, Reuters reported.
It's unclear whether today's test was successful. If it was, it would be a step toward long-range nuclear weapons capable of reaching the U.S. from North Korea. One way or another, North Korea is likely years away from being able to make such a weapon, Daryl Kimball of the U.S.-based Arms Control Association told Reuters.
Over the next few days, experts will look for radiation as confirming evidence that North Korea detonated an atom bomb today, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, seismic activity already offers some clues about what happened. Wired's Danger Room blog explains the geology of piecing together North Korean nuclear tests.
North Korea previously performed two nuclear weapons tests. Today's test created a stronger earthquake than tests in 2006 (a 4.3 on the Richter scale) and 2009 (4.7), which could indicate that today's bomb was the strongest of the three. However, previous measurements may have been inaccurate, or North Korea could have used boosters to create a stronger shake that's unrelated to the power of the detonated bomb, Wired reported.
The United Nations and President Barack Obama have released statements condemning today's test, with Obama promising, "We will strengthen close coordination with allies and partners and work with our Six-Party partners, the United Nations Security Council, and other UN member states to pursue firm action."