(CNSNews.com) – President Obama warned that North Korea would face “serious consequences” after conducting a nuclear test early Friday – the latest in a series of provocative actions this year including a previous nuclear test eight months ago and multiple ballistic missile launches since.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama had spoken to South Korean and Japanese leaders by phone, and “reiterated the unbreakable U.S. commitment to the security of our allies in Asia and around the world.”
“The president indicated he would continue to consult our allies and partners in the days ahead to ensure provocative actions from North Korea are met with serious consequences,” he added. Obama has just returned from a trip to Asia, where he was attending a G20 summit in China when North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
Friday’s test is the fifth carried out by the regime in Pyongyang in defiance of the international community. It said in an announcement on state television that North Korea has now developed nuclear warheads boasting “higher strike power,” while improving its ability to mount them onto ballistic missiles.
“This is our response to hostile powers, including the U.S.,” it said. “We sent out a message that if the enemies attack us, we can counterattack.”
The previous four nuclear tests was conducted in 2006, 2009, 2013 and January 6 this year.
Last January’s test brought a response in the form of a U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution adopted two months later. The Kim Jong-un regime has showed no sign of changing direction or tamping down its belligerent rhetoric since then, however.
On the contrary, it has carried out a number of ballistic missile launches over the ensuing months, prompting a series of condemnatory Security Council press statements, often merely replicating much of the language of earlier ones.
The Security Council was to hold an emergency session Friday to discuss the latest test, at the request of the U.S., Japan and South Korea.
Earlier, the South Korean and Japanese governments called crisis national security meetings to discuss the situation, after a magnitude 5.3 seismic event was detected at the location of the Pyunggye-ri nuclear test site in north eastern North Korea.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general Yukiya Amano expressed frustration at Pyongyang’s repeated provocations.
If confirmed, he said, the fifth test would be “in clear violation of numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions and in complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community. It is a deeply troubling and regrettable act.”
The Security Council resolution adopted last month demanded that North Korea comply immediately with the council's earlier decisions that it “shall not conduct any further launches that use ballistic missile technology, nuclear tests, or any other provocation, and shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program.”
Between 2003 and late 2008, the U.S., South Korea, Japan, China and Russia held numerous rounds of so-called “six-party talks” with North Korea in a bid to resolve the standoff over the Stalinist regime’s nuclear weapons programs.
The multilateral grouping of countries most directly affected by instability on the peninsula was established in response to the discovery in 2002 that North Korea had for years been cheating on a 1994 “Agreed Framework” denuclearization deal, brokered by the Clinton administration.
The six-party talks eventually produced an agreement for North Korea to shut down its illicit programs in return for U.S. and other foreign aid, and diplomatic concessions. But the process stalled in 2008, amid disputes about how to verify North Korean compliance.
No further six-party talks have been held during the Obama administration.