Seoul: North Korea said it successfully conducted a nuclear test on Monday, a move certain to further isolate the impoverished state which argues it has no choice but to build an atomic arsenal to protect itself in a hostile world.
“(North Korea) successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on 25 May as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defence in every way,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
It added that the underground test “was safely conducted on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology of its control.”
The news knocked South Korean financial markets with the main share index falling 4% at one stage on fears the test will raise tension in a region which accounts for one sixth of the global economy.
“The reported test appears to be aimed at securing ultimate endorsement of its nuclear power status from the United States and bringing Washington to the negotiation table,” said Kim Sung-han, a professor at Korea University.
“It could increase investor concerns about South Korea as the test may further worsen already soured inter-Korea relations,” he added.
North Korea has for weeks threatened to conduct the test - its first was in October 2006 - in response to tighter international sanctions following its launch of a rocket in April.
The communist state said that launch was to put a communications satellite into space. The international community said it was a disguised long-range missile.
Following the added sanctions, Pyongyang also said it would no longer be a party to regional talks on giving up attempts to build nuclear weapons in exchange for massive aid and an end to its status as a pariah state.
Some analysts have said the test may also be aimed at boosting the position at home of iron-leader Kim Jong-il, widely believed to have suffered a stroke last year.
Several say Kim, who succeeded his father to create the world’s first communist dynasty, may be trying secure the succession for one of his three sons and that a nuclear test in defiance of world opinion could help him win support to do so from his hardline military.