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North Korea Carries Out Nuclear Test

Posted October. 10, 2006 06:46,   


North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test in a mountainous region 20km northwest of Gimchaek City, Hamgyong Province at 10:35 a.m. on October 9. The Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGMR) in South Korea immediately detected a shockwave measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale.

As Pyongyang carried out the test despite the warnings of the South Korean government and the international community, the government made a decision to review the engagement policy, South’s key policy toward the North since the previous Kim Dae-jung Administration. It is also expected to participate in world moves to impose sanctions against the North. Some government officials suggest the government discontinue the six-party talks, which is aimed at curtailing the North’s nuclear ambitions.

President Roh Moo-hyun said at a press conference held after a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “As North Korea conducted a nuclear test, many Koreans may argue the government’s engagement policy is not appropriate in resolving the nuclear issue. So, it seems difficult for the South Korean government to maintain the policy.”

Asked about the government’s specific responses to the test, the president answered, “South Korea has lost its grounds for insisting on resolving the issue through dialogue with Pyongyang to the international community, which wants a hard-line attitude towards Pyongyang, such as sanctions and pressure. The South Korean government will deal with the issue by listening to many ideas from in and outside the country.”

North Korea announced through its official Korean Central News Agency, “The test was carried out safely and successfully, and there was no such danger from radioactive emissions in the course of the nuclear test, as it was carried out under scientific consideration and careful calculation.”

The KIGMR said the size of the test tremor was between 0.4kt and 0.8kt when converted into the size of TNT explosives. It would be far smaller than the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which had sizes of 15kt and 22kt, respectively.

President Roh said that South Korea will define Pyongyang’s nuclear test as a serious incident and respond to it firmly. He said the test is a threat that shakes the security and peace both on the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia and a behavior that deserted the world’s desire of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.

He also said, “The government will hear a variety of opinions from politicians to ordinary citizens, talk closely with other countries and act firmly. I ask the citizens not to be concerned.”

To hear opinions on the nuclear test, President Roh is going to meet with leaders of the five parties at Cheong Wa Dae at 7:00 a.m. on October 11 and have a meeting with former presidents in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the R.O.K Joint Chiefs of Staff announced it is considering raising its alert level to WATCHCON II (watch condition II) from the current WATCHCON III.

Lee Yong-dae of the Public Affairs Management Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense said that the time and the agenda of 38th ROK-US Security Consultative Meeting could be changed due to North Korea’s test. The meeting was supposed to be held in Washington on October 20.

jyw11@donga.com gun43@donga.com