ASTANA – Kazakhstan, which experienced firsthand the devastating effects of nuclear weapons testing under the Soviet Union, has joined other nations in condemning the latest underground nuclear test conducted Tuesday by North Korea.
On Tuesday morning, Kazakhstan’s National Data Centre, a part of a global system for monitoring nuclear tests, recorded seismic disturbances caused by the test on the territory of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In its statement on Feb. 12, Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry said Astana “strongly condemns the nuclear test carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea which violates the UN Security Council Resolutions #1718 (2006) and #1874 (2009).”
“Testing of nuclear weapons affects the non-proliferation process and bears security risks on regional and global scale,” the foreign minister continued. “Having experienced the harmful consequences of nuclear tests, our country took the lead to initiate to proclaim the UN International Day against Nuclear Tests. Kazakhstan stands for immediate resumption of negotiations on North Korean nuclear issue within six-party talks and calls on Pyongyang to abandon any steps which might lead to the escalation of tensions.”
The explosion was the third underground test conducted by North Korea.
For many years, North Korea has been actively developing intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. States in the region and the international community perceive these steps by Pyongyang as a serious threat to their securityb.
North Korea signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985. The treaty, which entered into force in 1970, requires non-nuclear powers to refrain from the production and acquisition of nuclear weapons, and to recognize the authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), based in Vienna, Austria.
The nuclear powers pledged under the NPT to refrain from transferring technologies and materials to non-nuclear states that could be used for the production of nuclear weapons, except for transactions concluded under IAEA control. All member countries of the NPT treaty pledged to strive for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to make all necessary efforts for nuclear disarmament.
However, right after North Korea signed the treaty, its nuclear facility in Yongbyon started operating its reactors to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium.
In 1993, Pyongyang refused to provide the IAEA with information about its nuclear programmes and withdrew from the NPT. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, North Korea lost its main sponsor and its economy was in ruins.
In 1994, the United States and its allies in Asia convinced North Korea to eliminate its uranium reactor in Yongbyon in exchange for a new light water reactor that could not produce the raw material to make nuclear weapons. North Korea then signed the NPT. However, that move appears to have been only a tactical manoeuvre to buy time.
In August 1998, North Korea conducted the first test launch of its long-range Taepodong-1 multi-stage ballistic missile under the pretext of attempting to launch a satellite into low earth orbit. The United States then accused Pyongyang of developing nuclear weapons. The North Korean government denied the claim.
In September 1999, against the background of improved relations with the United States, Pyongyang pledged to suspend its tests of long-range missiles.
In 2002, North Korean diplomats unofficially informed their American counterparts that their country had nuclear weapons.
In January 2003, North Korea again announced its withdrawal from the NPT. It then agreed to enter a series of six-party talks with the United States, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea to discuss its nuclear and missile programmes.
In February 2005, North Korea promised to stop those programmes, re-enter the NPT and allow IAEA inspectors into the country. However, in March 2005, Pyongyang refused to observe the moratorium on missile testing, citing what it called “hostile” U.S. policy.
In April 2005, North Korea tried again to launch a satellite into low earth orbit on its Taepodong-2, or Unha-2 missile. The attempt failed.
However, in December 2012, an Unha-3 multi-stage booster successfully launched a satellite into low earth orbit at last, showing that North Korea had made considerable progress in developing its own ballistic missiles. The UN Security Council condemned the action.
In response, North Korea indicated it would carry out another underground nuclear test and did so on Tuesday.
After Tuesday’s test, the Security Council held an emergency meeting on the issue. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters that the Security Council “must and will deliver a swift, credible and strong response” in a resolution to deal with Pyongyang’s missile and weapons programmes, she said.
North Korea “does not and will not benefit from violating international law,” Rice said. She said the Pyongyang government had “isolated and impoverished its people from its ill-advised pursuit” of weapons of mass destruction and weapons delivery systems.
North Korea was criticized by several foreign countries for conducting Tuesday’s test. The Russian Foreign Ministry described it as a “violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said North Korea should “abandon its nuclear arms programme,” and he called for the revival of talks on the issue.
South Korea’s presidential national security adviser, Chun Young-woo, said the test was an “unacceptable threat to the security of the Korean peninsula and north-east Asia… and a challenge to the whole international community.”
U.S. President Barak Obama called the test “provocative” and called for an urgent international response.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “If North Korea continues in this way, it will face increasing isolation.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) described the test as an “irresponsible act” and a “grave threat to international and regional peace, security and stability.”
The North Korean test has also been condemned by the IAEA, the European Union, China and Japan.
The UN Security Council said it was starting work “on appropriate measures in a Security Council resolution” and that “North Korea will be held responsible for any consequences of this provocative act”. The council is chaired this month by South Korea.
Tibor Toth, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation’s preparatory commission, said North Korea’s actions posed an obvious threat to global security.
The North Korean government said the test involved the detonation of “a miniature nuclear weapon of increased capacity.” Experts believe North Korea is trying to miniaturise its nuclear warheads so that they can be delivered on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).