North Korea carries out 'first nuclear test'

North Korea said today it has performed its first-ever nuclear weapons test.

The country’s official Korean Central News Agency said the test was performed and that there had been no radioactive leakage from the site.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has convened a meeting of security advisers over the issue, the Yonhap new agency reported.

Intelligence officials said a seismic wave of magnitude 3.58 had been detected in North Hamkyung province, according to Yonhap.

The North said last week it would conduct a nuclear test as part of its deterrent against a possible US invasion.

“We don’t know whether it is a nuclear test or not,” an official at the earthquake centre at the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources said.

The US Geological Survey said it had detected no seismic activity in North Korea, although it’s not clear if a blast would be strong enough for its sensors.

The nuclear test was conducted at 2.36am British time in Hwaderi near Kilju city, Yonhap reported, quoting defence officials.

The North has refused for a year to attend international talks aimed at persuading it to disarm. The country pulled out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 2003 after US officials accused it of a secret nuclear programme, allegedly violating an earlier nuclear pact between Washington and Pyongyang.

Speculation over a possible North Korean test arose earlier this year after US and Japanese reports cited suspicious activity at a suspected underground test site.

The official Korean Central News Agency said: “The nuclear test is a historic event that brought happiness to the our military and people.

“The nuclear test will contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and surrounding region.”

In Washington, US government officials said a wide range of agencies were looking into the report of the nuclear test, which officials were taking seriously.

The Japanese government has set up a task force in response to the reports, with ministers and officials urgently called to discuss the situation, Kyodo News agency said.

Japan’s new prime minister Shinzo Abe arrived today in Seoul for meetings with President Roh Moo-hyun to address the nuclear issue as well as address strains in relations between Japan and South Korea over territorial and historical disputes.

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