South Korea says North’s nuclear capability ‘speeding up,’ calls for action

South Korean soldiers and passenger watch a TV broadcasting a news report on Seismic activity produced by a suspected North Korean nuclear test at a railway station in Seoul South Korea

The Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterJapan faces the imminent question of how we, and the worldwide community as a whole, should respond to North Korea now that it has carried out its fifth nuclear test. But even if the North’s assertion that it has rounded a crucial corner in nuclear development is more rhetoric than real, the content of its claim holds some important clues about where the country’s atomic efforts may be heading.

Isolated North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January resulted in tough new United Nations sanctions.

“The standardisation of the nuclear warhead will enable the DPRK to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power”, KCNA said, using the acronym for North Korea.

On what was a national holiday in Pyongyang for the 68th anniversary of the nation’s founding, state media announced the detonation of a “higher level” nuclear warhead.

“North Korea will have to bear the consequences of its acts and provocations”, he said, adding that more importantly, new sanctions are “indispensable”.

The paper also accused South Korea’s leadership of being “military gangsters” who were provoking the North by conducting joint military exercises with the U.S. which encroached into their waters.

Combine that with everything scientists have learned from the four previous tests and North Korea may now have nuclear weapons capable of attacking its Asian neighbors, said nuclear expert Whang Joo-ho of Kyung Hee University in South Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he and Park talked by telephone and agreed that North Korea’s nuclear test and its recent missile launches show that it now poses a “different level of threat” requiring a new response.

Whatever the state of the program, one thing is clear: The fifth test was the most powerful to date.

South Korean activists, meanwhile, gathered in Seoul where they set fire to a portrait of Kim in a protest denouncing the nuclear test.

North Korea’s boast of a technologically game-changing test defied tough worldwide sanctions and long-standing diplomatic pressure to curb its nuclear ambitions.

Initial analysis of North Korea’s January test estimated a yield of just 6 kilotons.

This power strongly indicates a legitimate advance.

“Both would have direct knowledge about a forthcoming test and would be tasked to pass along a heavily implicit message”, said Madden.

Japan’s ballistic missile defense structure is two-tiered: Aegis-class warships equipped with Standard Missile 3 (SM3) interceptors, which can intercept missiles in outer space; and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air missile defense system, which can bring down missiles in flight up to a dozen kilometers away.

“But it has not yet completed the re-entry technology needed to develop an ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) that could hit Hawaii or the United States mainland”, Yang said. So, North Korea’s saying that if you mess with us we can destroy lots of people and lots of lives.

If the North has mastered miniaturization, the next step would be making and stamping bombs that can be put on warheads.

“In reality, the means by which the United States, South Korea and Japan can put pressure on North Korea have reached their limits”, he said.

In a statement via the state-run KNCA news agency, Pyongyang said the tests had confirmed the movement of nuclear warheads that had “been standardised to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets”.

UN Security Council Resolution 2270, which was passed in March after the North’s fourth nuclear test, provided a loophole allowing imports of North Korean coal if such transactions are exclusively for the North’s “livelihood” and will not yield revenue for its nuclear, ballistic missile or other restricted programs. Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for aid were last held in late 2008 and fell apart in early 2009.