North Korea decided to go ahead with its latest nuclear test plan Tuesday after it failed to strike a deal with China, according to Japanese media reports.
Japanese media cited unnamed Japanese government sources as saying that Beijing and Pyongyang had been in secret talks since Jan. 30, during which North Korea asked for a "certain condition."
If China agreed to its demand, the nuclear test would be postponed, but if China disagreed, the test would take place before Feb. 16, North Korean negotiators reportedly told their Chinese counterparts.
The talks continued until around Feb. 9 or Feb. 10, with Pyongyang continuing preparations for the test as the talks proceeded, the reports said.
Satellite images showed that the number of vehicles in the vicinity of the test site decreased significantly on Feb. 9, and no human movements were detected in the region on that day or the day after.
On the night of Feb. 11, the reports said, the Japanese government intercepted radio waves from the North Korean military that indicated someone was giving an order to "discreetly complete a mission" the following day.
North Korea's state broadcaster Korean Central TV broke the news Tuesday afternoon that the country successfully completed a nuclear test earlier in the day at 11:57 a.m. (Korean time).
The announcement of the action, which violated the United Nations-sponsored Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, drew immediate condemnation from nearly all major countries around the world, including Taiwan.
The following are excerpts from local media coverage of North Korea's controversial nuclear test:
United Daily News:
Xi Jinping, China's top leader, explicitly voiced his opposition to North Korea's nuclear test plan when he met with a visiting South Korean envoy in late January.
Japanese news media said Pyongyang's latest nuclear test highlighted Beijing's waning influence on North Korea, saying that it was not the first time that Pyongyang had brushed aside the Chinese government's opinion.
Last December, Chinese authorities also spoke out against Pyongyang's satellite launch plan, which was believed to be part of its long-range missile development project.
At the time, China even sent a high-level delegation to Pyongyang in a bid to persuade North Korea to drop the plan, but the regime ignored China's advice.
Japanese news media said recent events proved that North Korea does not treasure its traditional friendship with China, which is Pyongyang's top source of aid and investment.
At the same time, Japan has apparently not given up its hopes of normalizing relations with North Korea despite Pyongyang's repeated provocative actions, political analysts said.
The Japanese government only sanctioned Pyongyang symbolically after its satellite launch late last year by cutting the number of North Korean officials allowed to enter Japan.
This lenience reflected Tokyo's undying hope of resuming stalled talks on Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang authorities decades ago, the analysts said.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's representative to Japan, Shen Ssu-tsun, told this paper's correspondent in Tokyo on Tuesday that his office has been keeping close tabs on Japan's reaction to North Korea's nuclear weapons development program.
"We will keep our government informed of news updates about relevant events," Shen said. (Feb. 13, 2013).
North Korea's state news agency confirmed Wednesday that the country had successfully tested a device a day earlier.
The nuclear test was carried out at a high level in a safe manner using a "miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously," the Korean Central News Agency said.
North Korea's two previous nuclear tests took place in 2006 and 2009. All three tests appeared to have originated at a test site called Punggye-ri, also known as P'unggye-yok, in a remote area in eastern North Korea, near the town of Kilju.
Nuclear experts said the use of the word "miniaturized" was likely to alarm the international community because it could signal that Pyongyang's ultimate aim is to produce a device small enough to fit on a long-range missile.
North Korea's first two nuclear tests exploded devices that used plutonium, rather than enriched uranium.
It remains unclear whether North Korea used a uranium device for its most recent test, which could have significant implications for North Korea's nuclear capabilities, analysts said.
Both plutonium and uranium can be used for nuclear weapons production, but uranium devices are easier to conceal in a smaller facility because they do not need reactors and do not release hot steam, as do plutonium devices. Moreover, North Korea has rich uranium deposits.
Former British Ambassador to North Korea John Everard said the latest North Korean nuclear test was far more dangerous than the two previous ones.
The latest test indicated that Pyongyang could fire missiles to faraway targets and could export miniaturized uranium devices to Iran and other countries. (Feb. 13, 2013).
(By Sofia Wu)