Brushing off warnings from the United Nations, North Korea on Tuesday launched its third nuclear test in the remote, snowy northeast section of the peninsula. The test takes the communist country one step closer to its goal of building a bomb small enough to fit onto a missile capable of striking the United States.
North Korea claimed the atomic test was merely its “first response” to what it called U.S. threats and said it would continue with unspecified “second and third measures of greater intensity” if Washington maintains its hostility.
The underground test, which put powerful seismic waves in motion, drew immediate condemnation from Washington, the U.N., and others, including North Korea’s major ally, China.
President Barack Obama responded to the situation with a statement saying nuclear tests “do not make North Korea more secure.” Instead, he said, North Korea has “Increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its ill-advised pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.”
The test was a defiant response to U.N. orders to shut down atomic activity or face more sanctions and international isolation.
North Korea is estimated to have enough weaponized plutonium for four to eight bombs, according to American nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker. Even so, he says, Americans need not worry.
North Korea isn't close to having a nuclear bomb it can use on the United States or its allies. Instead, Hecker said in a posting on Stanford University's website, "it wants to hold U.S. interests at risk of a nuclear attack to deter us from regime change and to create international leverage and diplomatic maneuvering room."