North Korea's Nuclear Test a Threat to Peace, Bush Declares

By Howard Cincotta
Washington File Special Correspondent

Washington - President Bush sharply condemned North Korea's claim that it conducted an underground nuclear test as a threat to international peace and security in a brief televised address to the nation from the White House on October 9.

"North Korea has defied the will of the international community," Bush said, "and the international community will respond."

President Bush said that he had talked with the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Russia and China - all of whom reaffirmed their commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and condemned the North Korean test as unacceptable and requiring an immediate response by the U.N. Security Council.

The Security Council convened in emergency session on the morning of October 9. On October 6, the council voted unanimously to declare that a nuclear test by North Korea would bring "universal condemnation" and would not resolve that country's security concerns. (See related article.)

In July, North Korea fired a succession of ballistic missiles. (See related article.)

Early on the morning of October 9, the White House announced that the United States and South Korea had detected a "seismic event" at a suspected nuclear test site in North Korea in a statement by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. In response to press questions, Snow said that the United States still was assessing the data and had not yet confirmed that a nuclear test had taken place.

The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed that a 4.2-magnitude seismic event occurred about 385 kilometers northeast of Pyongyang, North Korea, at approximately 10:35 a.m. local time (0125 GMT) on October 9. Sufficient data to determine whether a nuclear blast was the cause of this seismic activity are not yet available.

In his televised remarks, Bush termed North Korea one of the world's leading proliferators of missile technology to countries like Iran and Syria. He warned that any transfer of nuclear weapons or material would be considered "a grave threat to the United States and we would hold North Korea fully accountable for such actions."

Bush reaffirmed the continuing U.S. commitment to diplomacy to resolve the Korean nuclear issue through the Six-Party Talks. He also pledged to U.S. allies in the region, particularly South Korea and Japan, that the United States "will meet the full range of its deterrent and security commitments."


International condemnation of the North Korean nuclear-test claim has been swift and universal, according to news accounts.

China stated that North Korea "has ignored the widespread opposition of the international community and conducted a nuclear test brazenly. ... The Chinese government is firmly opposed to this," according to a Washington Post report.

Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on a visit to Seoul, South Korea, said "the development and possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea will in a major way transform the security environment in North Asia and we will be entering a new, dangerous nuclear age," the Associated Press reported.

South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun termed the test "unacceptable" and was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, "This North Korean test is a great challenge to us, and the international community must take a firm stand on this challenge."

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the North Korean test "doesn't just concern North Korea. ... Enormous damage has been done to the process of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the world," according to the Associated Press.

In Vienna, Austria, the International Atomic Energy Agency said the action constitutes "the breaking of a de facto global moratorium on nuclear explosive testing that has been in place for nearly a decade."

In Brussels, Belgium, NATO condemned the test in strongest possible terms, saying it "poses an extremely serious threat to security in the Pacific region and the world." The NATO statement urged North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks without preconditions. (See related article.)

"Threats will not lead to a brighter future for the North Korean people, nor weaken the resolve of the United States and our allies to achieve the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," but only serve to deprive the North Korean people of the opportunity for "increased prosperity and better relations with the world," Bush said.

The president added, "The oppressed and impoverished people of North Korea deserve that brighter future."

A transcript of President Bush's remarks is available on the White House Web site.

For additional information, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula and Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.