The fierce reaction from world leaders to North Korea’s nuclear test

17 February, 2013

This is AS IT IS, from VOA Learning English. 

Hello, I’m Christopher Cruise.

Today on the program, Kelly Jean Kelly looks at the fierce reaction from world leaders to North Korea’s nuclear test on Tuesday. She reports that even China -- the North’s main ally -- has condemned the test.  

Then, June Simms tells us what some former State Department and CIA officials say the test reveals about North Korea’s technological progress. 

And, we talk with Graham Allison, a Harvard University professor who has written about nuclear terrorism. He says the test may mean that North Korea has the ability to sell a nuclear weapon to terrorists. 

World leaders are condemning the latest nuclear test by North Korea. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called it a “clear and grave violation” of U-N sanctions. Those measures bar North Korean nuclear and missile tests. 

Kelly Jean Kelly has more on reaction to the latest test:

The Defense Minister of Japan, Itsunori Onodera, spoke to VOA. He said the test represents a major international threat. 

“North Korea has announced their nuclear test succeeded. I think this means a big threat, not only to Japan, but also to the East Asia region, as a whole. North Korea has also managed to develop an improved version of the “Taepodong 2,” a long-range ballistic missile, last December. Therefore this nuclear threat is not only a concern for Japan, but also the world.”

Soon after the test, the next president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, met with current President Lee Myung-bak. The president-elect said the test does nothing to help the North’s position in the world.

“I think it only made North Korea turn international society into North Korea’s enemy and made itself isolated.” 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also condemned the test. 

“We firmly count that today’s action by Pyongyang, which deserves condemnation, will not be used as a pretext for an increasing of military activity in the area of the Korean peninsula.”

British Foreign Minister William Hague described what he wants other countries to do about the test.

“There is additional pressure that can be placed on North Korea, additional sanctions that can be put in place that of course have the most effect if they have the strong support of China, a key, of course a key nation in this regard and a permanent member of the Security Council. China agreed that there would be significant action if this happened. So, we will now look to them to discuss that with them.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization said the test, combined with North Korea’s missile launch in December, threatens international peace and security.  

After the test, China’s foreign ministry urged North Korea to honor its promise to work against the spread of nuclear weapons. The foreign ministry also said the issue should be settled as part of six-nation talks on the North’s nuclear activities. 

I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

Early reports say the latest nuclear test by North Korea was its most powerful yet. June Simms tells us what some former American officials are saying about the test:

Former State Department official Mitchell Reiss says the test shows that North Korea is seeking to possess both ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.        

“It’s alarming enough they’re doing each of those separately, but it’s the combination of the two that poses significant risks to the United States and our friends and allies.”

Bruce Klingner studied North Korea for years with the Central Intelligence Agency. He says the test leaves him wondering how China, with its strong economic ties to North Korea, will react.

“It clearly shows how little influence Beijing has, or how little influence it’s willing to use. Indeed, their increased economic engagement with North Korea really undermines any incentive for North Korea to go back to the Six Party Talks.”

Mitchell Reiss warned that Iran is watching how the world will react. 

“If the United States undertakes no sanctions, does not punish North Korea in any way, it will effectively be giving Iran a green light.”

None of the world’s major powers claim to want nuclear weapons in North Korea or Iran. But it is not clear whether they can prevent that from happening. 

I’m June Simms.

Graham Allison is very worried about the nuclear test. Mr. Allison is the director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. He is the author of “Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe.”  

On Tuesday, in The New York Times newspaper, he said “the most dangerous message North Korea sent with its third nuclear test is that nukes are for sale.” 

He spoke to the VOA’s Ira Mellman.

“This third test is most likely fueled by highly-enriched uranium, and the implication of that is that North Korea now has a undiscovered, operational uranium enrichment facility at which it’s producing materials (with) which it can make bombs.”      

Mr. Allison says the news that North Korea can now enrich uranium on its own means the world is a much more dangerous place now.

“The fact that they now have not, not a fixed amount of material but that they’re producing new material means that, God forbid, we’re gonna wake up here shortly and find that in, that what, what is a country in which everything is for sale includes nuclear weapons, usable material or even a weapon itself.”      

Mr. Allison says the West should make it clear to North Korea -- perhaps through its main ally China -- that selling nuclear weapons to terrorists could result in an American nuclear attack on the North.          

“…if they sell a bomb, or the material from which a bomb can be made, to a terrorist group like the remnants of al-Qaeda, or to some other state -- let’s imagine Iran -- and if that bomb were to explode on the territory of the U.S. or one of our allies, we will treat it just as if they had put a nuclear bomb on the top of a missile and, you know, hit an, hit an American city. That would, in fact I believe, for any American president, trigger a retaliation that would be chilling in the extreme.” 

And that is today’s edition of “As It Is,” our new show in VOA Special English.