A United States Geological Survey poster showing the 12 February 2013 seismic event near the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility in North Hamgyo’ng Province (Photo: USGS)
The DPRK conducted its third nuclear test in the late morning of 12 February (Tuesday). The first indication of the third experimental detonation was a seismic event with its epicenter on the premises of the DPRK’s nuclear test facility near P’unggye-ri, Kilchu County, North Hamgyo’ng Province. The seismic event was later identified in South Korea media reporting as a “man-made earthquake” and had an estimate magnitude between 4.7 and. 5.2. According to a preliminary analysis by the South Korean [ROK] government the nuclear test of between six (6) and seven (7) kilotons. According to a public health official in Primorsky Krai, the Russian administrative district that borders the DPRK, there were no increased raditation levels and “everything is normal and (the levels) correspond to the natural background.” It remains to be seen whether the DPRK tested a plutonium or uranium device.
Hours after media reports on the seismic event in North Hamgyo’ng Province, DPRK state media released a report in which it said “the scientific field for national defense of the DPRK succeeded in the third underground nuclear test at the site for underground nuclear test in the northern part of the DPRK on Tuesday.” According to KCNA’s report on the nuclear test:
The scientific field for national defence of the DPRK succeeded in the third underground nuclear test at the site for underground nuclear test in the northern part of the DPRK on Tuesday.
The test was carried out as part of practical measures of counteraction to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S. which wantonly violated the DPRK’s legitimate right to launch satellite for peaceful purposes.
The test was conducted in a safe and perfect way on a high level with the use of a smaller and light A-bomb unlike the previous ones, yet with great explosive power. It was confirmed that the test did not give any adverse effect to the surrounding ecological environment.
The specific features of the function and explosive power of the A-bomb and all other measurements fully tallied with the values of the design, physically demonstrating the good performance of the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence that has become diversified.
The nuclear test will greatly encourage the army and people of the DPRK in their efforts to build a thriving nation with the same spirit and mettle as displayed in conquering space, and offer an important occasion in ensuring peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the region.
DPRK state media also released a statement from the country’s Foreign Ministry which described the test as “a resolute step for self-defense taken by it to cope with the U.S. hostile act against it” and said that the “main objective of the current nuclear test is to express the surging resentment of the army and people of the DPRK at the U.S. brigandish hostile act and demonstrate the will and capability of Songun Korea to defend the sovereignty of the country to the last”:
The DPRK’s third nuclear test is a resolute step for self-defence taken by it to cope with the U.S. hostile act against it.
Its successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 in December last year was a peaceful one from A to Z which was conducted according to its plan for scientific and technological development for economic construction and the improvement of the standard of people’s living.
The world including hostile countries recognized its application satellite’s entry into orbit and greatly admired its development of space technology.
The U.S., however, again prodded the UN Security Council into cooking up a new “resolution on sanctions” against the DPRK, terming its satellite launch a violation of the UNSC’s “resolution”.
Encroaching upon the right to satellite launch is an unpardonable grave hostile act as it is an infringement on the DPRK’s sovereignty.
By origin, the DPRK had neither need nor plan to conduct a nuclear test.
The DPRK’s nuclear deterrence has already acquired the trustworthy capability strong enough to make a precision strike at bases for aggression and blow them up at a single blow no matter where they are on the earth.
It was the DPRK’s goal to focus efforts on economic construction and the improvement of the standard of people’s living by dint of nuclear deterrence for self-defence provided by the great Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il all their lives.
The DPRK exercised its maximum self-restraint when the U.S. fabricated the “presidential statement” over its satellite launch for peaceful purposes by abusing the UNSC in April last year.
But the DPRK’s patience reached its limit as the U.S. intensified such hostile act as implementing before anyone else the UNSC’s “resolution on sanctions”, far from apologizing for its renewed wanton violation of the DPRK’s right to satellite launch.
The main objective of the current nuclear test is to express the surging resentment of the army and people of the DPRK at the U.S. brigandish hostile act and demonstrate the will and capability of Songun Korea to defend the sovereignty of the country to the last.
The DPRK’s nuclear test is a just step for self-defence not contradictory to any international law.
The U.S. has long put the DPRK on the list of preemptive nuclear strike.
It is quite natural just measure for self-defence to react to the U.S. ever-increasing nuclear threat with nuclear deterrence.
The DPRK withdrew from the NPT after going through legitimate procedures and chose the way of having access to nuclear deterrence for self-defence to protect the supreme interests of the country.
There have been on the earth more than 2 000 nuclear tests and at least 9 000 satellite launches in the UN history spanning over 60 years but there has never been a UNSC resolution on banning any nuclear test or satellite launch.
It is the U.S. that has conducted more nuclear tests and launched more satellites than any others. It, however, cooked up the UNSC’s “resolution” banning only the DPRK’s nuclear test and satellite launch. This is the breach of international law and the height of double standards.
Had the UNSC been impartial even a bit, it would not have taken issue with a sovereign state’s exercise of the right to self-defence and its scientific and technological activities for peaceful purposes but with the U.S. policy for preemptive nuclear strike, a threat to global peace and security, to begin with.
The current nuclear test is the primary countermeasure taken by the DPRK in which it exercised its maximum self-restraint.
If the U.S. takes a hostile approach toward the DPRK to the last, rendering the situation complicated, it will be left with no option but to take the second and third stronger steps in succession.
The inspection of ships and maritime blockade touted by the hostile forces will be regarded as war actions and will invite the DPRK’s merciless retaliatory strikes at their strongholds.
The U.S., though belatedly, should choose between the two options: To respect the DPRK’s right to satellite launch and open a phase of detente and stability or to keep to its wrong road leading to the explosive situation by persistently pursuing its hostile policy toward the DPRK.
In case the U.S. chooses the road of conflict finally, the world will clearly see the army and people of the DPRK defend its dignity and sovereignty to the end through a do-or-die battle between justice and injustice, greet a great revolutionary event for national reunification and win a final victory.
The KCNA report and DPRK Foreign Ministry Statement were echoed in remarks made by the 1st Secretary of the DPRK Mission to the UN Geneva, Jon Yong Ryong said “The US and their followers are sadly mistaken if they miscalculate the DPRK (North Korea) would accept the entirely unreasonable resolutions against it. The DPRK will never be bound to any resolutions. Jon also said the nuclear test will “greatly encourage the army and the people of the DPRK in their efforts to build a thriving nation… and offers an important occasion in ensuring peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and the region.” Jon also said “”the prospect for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula has become gloomier due to the US hostile policies to the DPRK that have become ever more pronounced” and that if the “EU truly wants peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, it should urge the US first to terminate its hostile policy towards the DPRK on an impartial basis.”
In Beijing the PRC Foreign Ministry released a statement which said the Chinese government was “strongly dissatisfied with” and “firmly opposed to” the DPRK’s third nuclear test. The statement also urged “the DPRK to honor its commitment to denuclearization and refrain from any move that may further worsen the situation. To safeguard peace and stability on the Peninsula and in Northeast Asia serves the common interests of all parties.” The PRC Foreign Ministry also announced that it summoned DPRK Ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong to “lodge a solemn representation.”
The Japanese Government convened an emergency meeting and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the test “is a grave threat to our nation’s safety and cannot be tolerated as it will significantly damage international society’s peace and safety.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement in which “we insist that North Korea should stop illegal actions, strictly fulfil all requirements of the UN Security Council, fully abandon missile and nuclear programs, return to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the IAEA comprehensive guarantees” and “calls on all interested parties to show restraint and plans together with other six-party negotiators not to ease up in efforts towards normalization of the situation on the peninsula through political and diplomatic means.” The statement also said, “Only so and no other way North Korea will be able to pull out from effective international isolation, which will open the door to international cooperation in different directions without exclusion of peaceful atom and space. We are confident that this path meets interests, first of all, of North Korea itself.”
On 6 February Russian Ambassador to the DPRK Alexandr Timonin told Interfax, “As before, our country advocates the continuation of the search for political and diplomatic ways to stabilize the situation in the Northeast Asia and will do its best to facilitate the creation of favourable conditions for resuming the six-party talks on the nuclear problem in the Korean peninsula. In this respect, it is extremely important that all interested parties do not commit actions capable to aggravate the situation in the Korean peninsula and lead to a new arms race.”
The United Nations Security Council [UNSC], of which South Korea holds the monthly rotating presidency, held an emergency meeting on 12 February which “strongly condemned” the third test. According to the UNSC’s statement:
The members of the Security Council held urgent consultations to address the serious situation arising from the nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this test, which is a grave violation of Security Council resolution 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009) and 2087 (2013), and therefore there continues to exist a clear threat to international peace and security.
The members of the Security Council recalled that in January, they unanimously adopted resolution 2087 (2013), which expressed the Council’s determination to take “significant action” in the event of a further Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nuclear test.
In line with this commitment and the gravity of this violation, the members of the Security Council will begin work immediately on appropriate measures in a Security Council resolution.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “strongly” condemned the 12 February nuclear test and described it as ” clear and grave violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions” and said that Ban is “gravely concerned about the negative impact of this deeply destabilizing act on regional stability as well as the global efforts for nuclear non-proliferation”:
The Secretary-General condemns the underground nuclear weapon test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) today. It is a clear and grave violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.
It is deplorable that Pyongyang defied the strong and unequivocal call from the international community to refrain from any further provocative measures. The Secretary-General had repeatedly called on the new leadership in Pyongyang to address international concerns and start building confidence with neighbouring countries and the international community.
The Secretary-General is gravely concerned about the negative impact of this deeply destabilizing act on regional stability as well as the global efforts for nuclear non-proliferation. He once again urges the DPRK to reverse course and work towards de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
The Secretary-General is confident that the Security Council will remain united and take appropriate action. In the meantime, the Secretary-General remains in close contact with all concerned parties and stands ready to assist their efforts.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, “expressed deep regret” about the nuclear test and “strongly urged the DPRK to fully implement all relevant UN Security Council resolutions and all relevant IAEA Board of Governors resolutions.” According to a brief statement Amano said, “I understand that the DPRK announced it had carried out a third test of a nuclear weapon, despite calls from the international community not to do so. This is deeply regrettable and is in clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The IAEA remains ready to contribute to the peaceful resolution of the DPRK nuclear issue by resuming its nuclear verification activities in the country as soon as the political agreement is reached among countries concerned.”
Institutions and power organizations involved in the 12 February 2013 (abridged edition)
The 12 February 2013 nuclear test was the culmination of activity within departments, offices, sections and units of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP], the DPRK Government and the Korean People’s Army [KPA]. The third nuclear test was authorized through government channels by the DPRK National Defense Commission [NDC] and through party channels during an expanded meeting of the Party Central Military Commission [CMC] on 3 February 2013. Kim Jong Un’s last reported public appearance was at the expanded CMC meeting. Like the 12 December 2012 launch of the U’nha-3 rocket, the experimental detonation was a combined effort of scientists and technicians (who typically work for party and government agencies) and elements of the KPA. Personnel involved in each phase of the nuclear test would interface with Kim Jong Un and other core leadership through the KWP Machine Building Industry Department’s deputy (vice) director Hong Sung Mu and the KWP Organization Guidance Department [OGD]. When Kim Jong Il was alive, the nuclear weapons program was commanded directly by KJI through a former Kim Il Sung University professor So Sang Kuk, who held the position of OGD deputy (vice) director and worked in KJI’s office.
Information about the DPRK’s strategic weapons program in general, and its testing of nuclear weapons in particular, is speculative and contradictory. However, there are some key organizations that would have been involved in the actual nuclear test. The nuclear test was conducted by elements of the KPA General Staff’s Nuclear-Chemical, Ordnance and Communications Bureaus working in cooperation with personnel from the 5th Bureau of the Second Economy Commission [SEC], the 2nd National Academy of Sciences [SANS] and the Nuclear Bureau. According to some researchers, the Nuclear Bureau is part of the KWP Machine-Building Industry Department (formerly known as the KWP Munitions Industry Department), however other sources says that the Nuclear Bureau was subordinated directly to the NDC, after it was bureaucratically migrated from the KWP along with SANS. SANS personnel would have been involved in the nuclear physics, engineering and other technical aspects of the test, while the 5th Bureau of the SEC would have been involved in production of the nuclear device (as well as preliminary high explosive testing). The construction of the detonation area and tunnels may have been conducted by a Ministry of People’s Security [MPS] engineering unit or a specialized construction unit of the KPA. Support roles would have been played by the KPA General Logistics Department (subordinate to the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces [MPAF]) and for mission security by elements of the Military Security Command [MSC] and the Ministry of State Security’s Defense Industry Security Bureau, possibly augmented by personnel of the Guard Command.
Leadership Activities Prior to 12 February 2013 nuclear test
On 12 February, DPRK state media reported that a meeting of the KWP Political Bureau convened on 11 February (Monday). Kim Jong Un was not reported to have attended. The Political Bureau meeting passed a lengthy decision to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of active hostilities of the Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War and the 65th anniversary of the DPRK’s foundation. However, the Political Bureau meeting was most likely the forum at which the central leadership was formally notified of an impending third nuclear test.
Kim Jong Un’s last public appearance was reported on 3 February 2012 and was his chairing and attending the expanded CMC meeting. Prior to the CMC meeting, KJU attended a commemorative photo-op with participants of the 4th Meeting of Party Cell Secretaries. Notable members of his entourage at the photo-op were VMar Kim Yong Chun and Gen. O Kuk Ryol, two of the KPA’s key senior officials tied to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program. Interestingly, VMar Kim and Gen. O were part of a personnel shake-up of the KPA’s high command in February 2009, three months prior to the May 2009 nuclear test. At that time, Gen. O was appointed Vice Chairman of the NDC and VMar Kim was appointed Minister of the People’s Armed Forces. VMar Kim was later replaced as minister and appointed director of the KWP Civil Defense Department, which has a major public safety function during a nuclear test. Also in February 2009, Kim Kyok Sik was replaced as Chief of the KPA General Staff by Ri Yong Ho. Ri was later famously dismissed in July 2012, but Kim Kyok Sik resurfaced in a senior position when he was appointed Minister of the People’s Armed Forces in November 2012, approximately three months ahead of the 12 February 2013 nuclear test.
Late DPRK supreme leader Kim Jong Il tours revolutionary historical sites in Yo’nsa County, North Hamgyo’ng Province in his last reported public appearance before the DPRK conducted its second nuclear weapons test on 25 May 2009. Yo’nsa County is only 65 km (40 miles) from the Punggye-ri nuclear testing area (Photos: KCNA)
KJU’s lack of public activity contrasts with Kim Jong Il’s (his father) public appearances prior to the second nuclear test on 25 May 2009. On 23 May 2009, DPRK state media reported that the late KJI inspected revolutionary historical sites in Yo’nsa County, North Hamgyo’ng Province, located 65 km (40 miles) from the P’unggye-ri test site. On the day of the test, KJI was reported to have attended a concert given by the Persimmon Tree (kamnamu) Company of the KPA. State media did not disclose where the concert took place, making it likely that KJI watched the concert in Pyongyang or at the Persimmon Tree Company’s headquarters in Kangwo’n Province.