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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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N.Korea Confirms 5th Nuclear Test

Sep. 9, 2016

North Korea has conducted a fifth nuclear test in defiance of the international community. State-run media says scientists there successfully set off an underground blast involving a nuclear warhead for the first time.

An announcer for Korean Central Television read a statement reportedly from the scientists involved.

"We, the scientists and technicians at the nuclear weapons laboratory conducted a nuclear test at the northern testing site to determine the force of a newly developed warhead. It was carried out successfully," the statement said.

They claim the warheads can be mounted on ballistic rockets, and can be mass produced.

Seismologists around the world detected the test on Friday morning after observing a tremor. The US Geological Survey measured its magnitude and assessed it as an explosion.

The North has performed nuclear tests in the same location every few years since 2006. The last test was 8 months ago. Officials in Seoul say it appears to be the largest explosion to date, with a force of about 10 kilotons.

An NHK cameraman was in the border city of Yanji, Jilin province, 200 km from the test site.

"I was in my hotel room on the 25th floor when the quake hit. I felt a horizontal shaking that lasted about one second. It was brief, but I definitely felt it," Morikazu Izumo said.

US President Barack Obama spoke separately by phone with the leaders of Japan and South Korea. He stressed the US commitment to its allies. He also promised efforts to ensure North Korea's provocations meet with serious consequences.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga strongly criticized the North, saying Japan will not tolerate such acts.

"Japan has been implementing its own sanctions on the North, in addition to those based on resolutions of the UN Security Council. Our government will study additional sanctions," Suga said.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said in a statement the test is "proof of Pyongyang's recklessness."

She said it would only lead North Korea to further isolation.


NHK World's Hiroki Yajima joined anchors Sho Beppu and Aki Shibuya in the studio.

Beppu: Hiroki, as we've said, North Korea announced that the country succeeded in its test. What is it trying to show?

Yajima: I think North Korea wants to say that this test is different from past tests. The country seems to want to stress that its nuclear development is entering a new stage, and that it's more powerful than ever. I was surprised by the statement aired by North Korean state-run TV.

"The nuclear test finally examined and confirmed the structure and specific features of movement of nuclear warhead that has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets of the Hwasong artillery pieces units of the strategic force of the Korean People's Army as well as its performance and power."
North Korean News Announcer

North Korea appears to have vastly improved its nuclear technologies. South Korea says this is the biggest nuclear test by Pyongyang. So, considering all of that, I have to say the speed of North Korea's nuclear development is faster than many people expected.

Shibuya: Why did North Korea choose Sept. 9 for the test?

Yajima: Well, I suppose there are both domestic and diplomatic reasons to be considered. Sept. 9 marks the national foundation day, so it seems Kim Jong Un wants to boost national unity. Recently, high-level North Korean diplomats have defected to the South, so Kim may be trying to send a signal against that.

He also could be trying to further cement his powerbase. Then, the following statement implies the North is sending some diplomatic messages to the United States.

"The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable the DPRK to produce at will, and as many as it wants, a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power with a firm hold on the technology for producing and using various fissile materials."
North Korean News Announcer

North Korea's statement says that it has improved its production and is trying to show it's able to fight a nuclear state like the US. Leaders at the G20 and the ASEAN summit condemned the recent missile launches and next week, the UN General Assembly will open in New York. President Obama will take up the nuclear issue there.

So before that, Pyongyang may want to show it will not back down, no matter what the global community says. North Korea may improve nuclear technology in order to put itself in a better negotiating position if disarmament talks with Washington go ahead. They've been stalled for years.


NHK World's Daisuke Azuma joins anchors Sho Beppu and Aki Shibuya in the studio from Beijing.

Beppu: Daisuke, how are Chinese authorities reacting to Pyongyang's latest actions?

Azuma: Foreign ministry officials here say China is resolutely opposed to North Korea's latest nuclear test. And they say they'll lodge a protest with the North's embassy. But they haven't mentioned any further moves to rein in Pyongyang.

"China urges North Korea to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and to stop taking any actions that will make the situation worse."
Hua Chunying / Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson

Many in Beijing are also upset with the timing of Pyongyang's missile test earlier this week. The North fired 3 ballistic missiles on Monday, the same day that China was wrapping up the G20 summit. President Xi Jinping had told South Korean officials he opposes their plan to deploy an American missile defense system. But Pyongyang's latest actions give Seoul more reasons to ignore Beijing's position.

Following the launches, the UN Security Council, with the approval of China's ambassador, quickly condemned the North. It was a stark contrast from a month ago, when China opposed a similar Security Council statement. This indicates that Beijing has started to harden its stance toward Pyongyang.

Shibuya: Daisuke, what options do Chinese officials have to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program?

Azuma:Officials in Beijing say their influence on North Korea is limited.
On Thursday, a senior official from Pyongyang flew to Beijing. Kim Song Nam has served as a liaison between the 2 countries. The purpose of his visit is unknown, but there is speculation that he may have discussed the latest nuclear test with Chinese officials. Experts here say Pyongyang thinks Beijing's hands are tied. They say Chinese leaders are worried that a large influx of refugees from North Korea might destabilize China... and that Pyongyang is taking advantage of the situation.

US President Barack Obama says he has urged Xi to work with the United States to change Pyongyang's behavior if China does not want American missile defenses to be deployed in South Korea.

Xi says China will remain firm on its aim of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. But with their options running out, China's leaders' ability to deal with North Korea seems increasingly limited.


Anger in Hiroshima and Nagasaki

People in Japan are concerned and angry about the test, especially those in the 2 cities that experienced nuclear attacks.

"I feel very nervous," says one young woman in Hiroshima. "I can't understand what made North Korea do it."

Sunao Tsuboi is a representative of an atomic-bomb survivors' association. He met with US President Barack Obama in May, and he's very angry at the news.

"We have to make North Korea aware that it's pushing forward according to its own logic," Tsuboi said.

The leader of Nagasaki's survivors also says he's very disappointed.

"Based on our own experiences, we've been campaigning for the past 70 years to ensure the tragedy is never repeated," Koichi Kawano said.


North Korea's Recent Moves

North Korea has continued to make threats and put on regular displays of military firepower. At the start of this year, Pyongyang surprised the international community with a nuclear test.

"We have succeeded in conducting our first hydrogen bomb test," a North Korean news announcer said at the time. "People in our country demonstrated the spirit of a dignified nation equipped with the most powerful nuclear deterrent."

Many countries were skeptical of the North's claim that it was a hydrogen bomb. Even though it's widely agreed that it wasn't, it didn't stop countries from calling the experiment a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

A month later, under the guise of a satellite launch, North Korea fired what is widely believed to have been a long-range ballistic missile. South Korea's Defense Ministry says the rocket had a maximum range of 12,000 kilometers, meaning it could strike the east coast of the US.

"The dignity of our country has solemnly flown into space with our satellite," a North Korean news announcer said.

The country's leader, Kim Jong Un, claimed his country had made nuclear warheads small enough to mount on ballistic missiles.

"We succeeded in a re-entry simulation for bringing a ballistic missile back to the earth," said a North Korean news announcer.

The US imposed sanctions on Kim personally for the first time.

"Human rights abuses in the DPRK are among the worst in the world. The government continues to commit extra judicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention forced labor, and torture," US State Department Spokesperson John Kirby said.

North Korea saw this as an insult to its leader and in response, Pyongyang cut off its direct channel of diplomatic communications.

Washington and Seoul agreed to deploy a missile defense system in the South to protect it from attacks. The North is now preparing measures to counter it.

In late August, its state media reported that the country had successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile. That is more difficult to detect in advance of it being fired.

The ruling party's newspaper quoted Kim as saying that the US mainland and the Asia-Pacific region are now within North Korea's grasp.

And in early September, state-run television showed 3 missiles being fired. The move came as leaders of the G20 countries were meeting in China -- North Korea's neighbor and main ally.

The UN Security Council met over the latest launch and quickly adopted a statement condemning North Korea.

"The members of the Security Council express serious concern that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea conducted these ballistic missile launches... in flagrant disregard of the repeated statements of the Security Council," said Security Council President Gerard van Bohemen.

Members of the United Nations Security Council are expected to hold an emergency meeting at UN headquarters in New York on Friday afternoon, local time. They'll discuss how to respond to the nuclear test.

Japan, the US and South Korea plan to lead efforts toward a statement condemning Pyongyang, and will call on other UN members to strictly and steadily implement sanctions against the North.