Seoul: North Korea on Tuesday conducted a third nuclear test, a United Nations Security Council diplomat has confirmed. Reports say the communist country has likely exploded a 10 kiloton nuclear device.
The US Geological Survey detected seismic activity from the North of the country just after the test. Japan has already raised concern over possible nuclear fallout from the blast while South Korean media reports also say the North had pulled out all manpower and equipment from its nuclear test site on Monday.
No official confirmation came from Pyongyang but North Korea had, in December, announced it was planning another nuclear test and more long range rocket launches, despite a UN Security Council warning.
The epicentre of the seismic activity, which was only one km below the Earth's surface, was close to the North's known nuclear test site. "We've been informed by the South Koreans that there's been a (North Korean) nuclear test," a UN Security Council said.
An international nuclear test monitoring agency said the location of the seismic event was "roughly congruent with" 2006 and 2008 tests carried out by the reclusive state and had "clear explosion-like characteristics". North Korea, which had been threatening a third nuclear test, had informed Beijing and Washington on Monday of plans to undertake a test, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
North Korea is not prone to seismic activity and it may take hours or even days to determine officially whether a nuclear test had been conducted. South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak called a national security council meeting for 0400 GMT.
North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket in December in violation of UN resolutions that banned it from developing missile or nuclear technology after nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. It announced plans for a third nuclear test in response to the sanctions imposed in January after the rocket launch, although satellite imagery indicated it has been readying its test site for more than a year.
(With Additional Inputs From Reuters)