North Korea confirms that it has conducted a successful "nuclear warhead explosion" test, saying it was meant to counter US hostility.
"Our nuclear scientists staged a nuclear explosion test on a newly developed nuclear warhead at the country's northern nuclear test site," a TV announcer said on Friday.
The confirmation came after South Korean authorities said they believed North Korea has conducted a fifth nuclear test — its biggest to date — following the detection of an “artificial earthquake.”
South Korea’s meteorological agency said the magnitude 5.3 quake was detected near North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
“The 10-kiloton blast was nearly twice the fourth nuclear test and slightly less than the Hiroshima bombing, which was measured about 15 kilotons,” said Kim Nam-Wook of South Korea’s meteorological agency.
Reacting to the development, the White House said it was assessing the explosion near North Korea’s nuclear test, but stopped short of confirming a nuclear test.
China calls for restraint
China's official Xinhua news agency said all parties in the international community should exercise restraint following the test as it is in nobody's interest for there to be chaos or war on the Korean Peninsula.
In a commentary, Xinhua said North Korea's nuclear test is "not wise," but South Korea's decision to deploy an advanced US anti-missile system has also seriously damaged regional strategic balance.
China’s Foreign Ministry said it was “firmly opposed” to the test but called for the issue to be resolved through six-party talks. The long-stalled negotiations process chaired by China brings together the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States.
The UN and the West have imposed a raft of sanctions on North Korea, prompting Pyongyang to step up its nuclear activities.
On Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called on the country's military to bolster its nuclear capabilities after ordering the launch of three ballistic missiles.
In January, North Korea said it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb, its fourth nuclear test, and vowed to build up its nuclear program as deterrence against potential aggression from the US and its regional allies.
North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear “deterrence” unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led command in South Korea. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South Korea and Japan.
Pyongyang is incensed by joint military drills held in the Korean Peninsula by the South and the US as well as their plan to deploy the THAAD missile system in the region.
China and Russia have also voiced opposition to the deployment, saying the system would threaten security, stability and peace on the Korean Peninsula and cannot help denuclearize the volatile region.