International leaders harshly condemned North Korea’s test of a hydrogen bomb on Sunday, with neighboring South Korea indicating they would seek to deploy US tactical nuclear weapons to deter Pyongyang.
South Korean President Moon Jae-In called for the “strongest punishment” against North Korea, including new United Nations sanctions.
Moon called for “all diplomatic measures including UNSC sanctions resolutions to completely isolate North Korea,” presidential security adviser Chung Eui-Yong said after an emergency National Security Council meeting.
The South would discuss deploying “the strongest strategic assets of the US military,” he cited Moon as saying — potentially a reference to tactical nuclear weapons which were withdrawn by Washington in 1991.
South Korea’s presidential office also said Eui-yong spoke with US counterpart H.R. McMaster for 20 minutes in an emergency phone call about an hour after the detonation.
There has been no immediate reaction from the US, with the test coming in the middle of the night in America.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who spoke with US President Donald Trump about “ongoing efforts to maximize pressure on North Korea,” called the nuclear test “absolutely unacceptable” and said North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs now pose a “more grave and urgent” threat to Japan.
“The fact that North Korea forced through a nuclear test this time is absolutely unacceptable to our country,” Abe said in a statement. “North Korea’s nuclear and missile development program is a threat that is more grave and urgent to the safety of our country and has entered a new stage.”
“It is significantly hurting regional and international peace and stability,” he added.
North Korea’s traditional ally China also denounced the test, slamming Pyongyang for ignoring international condemnation of its atomic weapons program.
North Korea “has ignored the international community’s widespread opposition, again carrying out a nuclear test. China’s government expresses resolute opposition and strong condemnation toward this,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.
“We strongly urge the DPRK (North Korea) to face the strong will of denuclearization from the international community, earnestly abide by the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, stop taking mistaken actions which worsen the situation and are also not in line with its own interests, and effectively return to the track of solving the problem through dialogue,” it added.
Beijing is North Korea’s main diplomatic ally and economic supporter and is seen as playing a crucial role in efforts to get Pyongyang to curb its weapons program.
The test came just hours before Chinese President Xi Jinping was scheduled to open a summit of BRICs nations in southern China.
North Korea’s actions created a potentially embarrassing situation for Xi, who is preparing for a politically sensitive gathering of the ruling Communist Party in October, at which he aims to further consolidate his power.
The leader chose not to address the test during his more than 40-minute address to the assembled leaders of Russia, India, South Africa and Brazil.
It was the second time this year that North Korea has timed a weapons test to coincide with a major international political gathering in China, after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile in May as leaders from 29 nations gathered in Beijing for a summit touting China’s new Silk Road project.
Russia said the nuclear test showed North Korea’s “disregard” for UN resolutions and international law while also urging against a further escalation of tensions.
“This latest demonstrative disregard by Pyongyang of the requirements of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and the norms of international law deserves the strongest condemnation,” the foreign ministry in Moscow said. “In the unfolding conditions, it is imperative to remain calm and to refrain from any actions that lead to a further escalation of tension,” a statement said.
French President Emmanuel Macron called for a “very firm” response by the international community.
“The international community must be very firm in its handling of this latest provocation,” he said in a statement, calling on the UN Security Council to “quickly react” to the escalation.
The head of the UN nuclear watchdog said North Korea’s latest latest nuclear test was “extremely regrettable” and violated the international community’s repeated demandsy.
“Today’s nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is an extremely regrettable act,” International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano said in a statement.
“This new test, which follows the two tests last year and is the sixth since 2006, is in complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community,” Amano said.
UN Security Council resolutions have reaffirmed that Pyongyang should not conduct any further nuclear tests and abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs, Amano added.
Amano said that the Vienna-based IAEA, whose inspectors were kicked out of North Korea in 2009, “remains ready” to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the situation.
Sunday’s test was the sixth to be carried out by North Korea and the country’s state-controlled media said it was a thermonuclear device.
The blast was the most powerful yet from a North Korean nuclear explosion and Pyongyang said the test was a “complete success.”
North Korea’s state-run television broadcast a special bulletin Sunday afternoon to announce the test. It said leader Kim Jong Un attended a meeting of the ruling party’s presidium and signed the go-ahead order. Earlier in the day, the party’s newspaper ran a front-page story showing photos of Kim examining what it said was a nuclear warhead being fitted onto the nose of an intercontinental ballistic missile.