A spokesman for the National Security Council said the administration is studying North Korea’s claim of its fourth nuclear test, while Republicans slammed the White House for neglecting the threat posed by Kim Jong-un.
The world was alerted to the test through the Richter scale — the U.S. Geological Survey logged the event as magnitude 5.1, 243 miles northeast of Pyongyang.
“We are aware of seismic activity on the Korean Peninsula in the vicinity of a known North Korean nuclear test site and have seen Pyongyang’s claims of a nuclear test,” NSC spokesman Ned Price said late Tuesday, soon after a special North Korean TV broadcast announcing the test.
“While we cannot confirm these claims at this time, we condemn any violation of UN Security Council resolutions and again call on North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments,” Price added.
North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013. “But we have consistently made clear that we will not accept it as a nuclear state,” Price said, adding the U.S. “will respond appropriately to any and all North Korean provocations.”
The official Korean Central News Agency said the test was of a hydrogen bomb, stating “the U.S. and other hostile forces become evermore desperate in their moves to check the DPRK people in building a thriving nation and improving the living standard and bring down the social system in the DPRK.”
“The successful H-bomb test was a measure for self-defense the DPRK took to protect its sovereignty and the vital rights of the Korean nation from the escalating nuclear threat and blackmail by the hostile forces, as part of its efforts to reliably defend the peace on the Korean Peninsula and regional security,” said the regime mouthpiece.
The blast prompted an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council today.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) wrote just over a month ago in the Wall Street Journal that “it is time for the U.S. to counter this forgotten maniac” with sanctions.
Gardner has introduced legislation to impose sanctions on those involved with North Korea’s nuclear program, as well as confronting the regime’s money laundering and arms smuggling.
As the news unfolded late last night, the senator noted that the testing of a hydrogen bomb “would serve as a reminder of the danger posed to the world by this often-forgotten maniac who leads a government that grips to power by fear, intimidation, and murder.”
“Events like this are a symptom of a failed foreign policy. The Obama administration’s stance on Russia, Syria, and especially Iran have sent a clear message to dictators and despots around the world: if you act badly enough, for long enough, this administration will reward your behavior,” Gardner said. “It’s time for that to stop. It’s time for the United States to provide the leadership that the world so desperately requires.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Gardner, said he’s been warning “that North Korea is run by a lunatic who has been expanding his nuclear arsenal while President Obama has stood idly by.”
“If this test is confirmed, it will be just the latest example of the failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy,” Rubio said. “Our enemies around the world are taking advantage of Obama’s weakness. We need new leadership that will stand up to people like Kim Jong-un and ensure our country has the capabilities necessary to keep America safe.”
That theme seeped quickly onto the campaign trail, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie noting this morning that “it’s been a weak response by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the last seven years.”
“The fact is that we’ve allowed North Korea, while the President’s been playing footsie with the Iranians, we’ve allowed the North Koreans to get further and further down the nuclear road,” Christie told Fox. “You have to be able to do more than – you need to walk and chew gum at the time. And this president and Hillary Clinton have not been able to do either.”
Donald Trump told Fox this morning that “China should solve that problem.”
“And if they don’t solve the problem, we should make trade very difficult for China because we are, believe it, we are holding China up,” Trump said. “They’re taking so much money. They’re draining our country, and they’re toying with us with North Korea.”
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee saw the nuclear test as tied to Iran’s imminent sanctions relief under the P5+1 agreement.
“Dictators like Kim Jong-un don’t take time outs, they take advantage when the U.S. looks away. As Iran prepares to gain billions in sanctions relief, North Korea surely thinks it can intimidate the Obama administration into the same,” Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said in a statement.
“The answer to North Korea’s threats is more pressure, not less. This rogue regime has no interest in being a responsible state,” Royce added. “It continues to starve its people while it works to advance nuclear, missile and cyber weapons that pose a direct threat to the U.S. and our allies. The administration’s North Korea policy has proven a dramatic failure, and we urgently need a new approach.”
In October 2014, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea told a Pentagon press briefing that they fear “uncontrolled escalation” of the nuclear threat on the peninsula as North Korea continues its weapons program.
“They claim they have an intercontinental ballistic missile that’s capable. You know, they paraded something at least a couple of times,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti said. “Personally I think that they certainly have had the expertise in the past. They’ve had the right connections, and so I believe have the capability to have miniaturized a device at this point, and they have the technology to potentially actually deliver what they say they have. We have not seen it tested. And I don’t think, as a commander, we can afford the luxury of believing perhaps they haven’t gotten there.”
The general said North Korea is believed to have a launcher to accommodate a long-range functioning missile.