BEIJING: China “firmly opposes” North Korea’s nuclear test, the foreign ministry of Pyongyang’s main diplomatic protector said on Friday, after its fifth atomic blast.
The United Nations atomic watchdog also described North Korea’s latest nuclear test, if confirmed, as “deeply troubling and regrettable” as the United States said it is assessing the nuclear explosion.
Pyongyang’s state media said the test had been successful and achieved its goal of being able to fit a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a rocket.
“Today, the DPRK again conducted a nuclear test despite widespread international opposition — the Chinese government firmly opposes this,” the ministry in Beijing said in a statement on its website, using the North’s official name.
“We strongly urge the DPRK to honor its commitment to denuclearization, comply with the relevant security council resolutions and stop taking any actions that worsen the situation,” it added.
The statement called for the issue to be resolved through six-party talks — the long-stalled negotiations process chaired by China that also brings together the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States.
China’s environmental protection ministry activated a contingency plan following the blast, the official news agency Xinhua reported, adding that it was monitoring for radiation on the North Korean border.
Ties between China and the North have become strained in recent years as Pyongyang has pressed ahead with its nuclear tests, and with Kim Jong-Un yet to visit Beijing since inheriting power from his father, who died in 2011.
United States assessing blast
The White House said it is assessing the explosion near North Korea’s nuclear test site that was detected by seismic monitors, but did not confirm reports of a nuclear test.
“We are aware of seismic activity on the Korean Peninsula in the vicinity of a known North Korean nuclear test site,” said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.
“We are monitoring and continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with our regional partners,” he added.
US President Barack Obama had expressed concern earlier on Friday about North Korea’s nuclear activity.
“We are going to make sure that we put our defensive measures in place so that America is protected, our allies are protected,” Obama told journalists in Laos, where he attended a summit with South East Asia leaders.
“We will continue to put some of the toughest pressure that North Korea has ever been under as a consequence of this behavior,” he added.
UN nuclear watchdog worried
From Vienna, the UN atomic watchdog said North Korea’s nuclear test clearly disregarded the demands of the international community.
“This is in clear violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions and in complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community,” said Yukiya Amano, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“It is a deeply troubling and regrettable act,” Amano said in a statement.
The UN Security Council had in Resolution 2270 in March “condemned in the strongest terms” North Korea’s previous test in January, Amano said.
It had reaffirmed that Pyongyang must “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, and immediately cease all related activities,” he recalled.
“The Agency continues to closely follow the DPRK nuclear issue. We remain ready to contribute to its peaceful resolution by resuming our verification activities in the country once a political agreement is reached among countries concerned,” Amano said.
The Vienna-based IAEA was kicked out of North Korea in 2009.
Pyongyang’s state media said the latest test, which comes after a series of ballistic missile launches that have drawn international condemnation and UN sanctions, had achieved its goal of being able to fit a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a rocket.