May 25, 2009 / 2:56 AM / 10 years ago

INSTANT VIEW: North Korea says conducted nuclear test

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it had successfully conducted a nuclear test on Monday, raising the explosive power and level of control of its nuclear device to a new level.

“We have successfully conducted another nuclear test on May 25 as part of the republic’s measures to strengthen its nuclear deterrent,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

Following are some views from analysts:

TIM SAVAGE, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NAUTILUS INSTITUTE

“It is interesting timing. But that’s probably just a coincidence (the death of South Korea’s former president). They would’ve been preparing for this for a while.”

“Certainly South Korea doesn’t want to see North Korea enhance (nuclear) capability but they have been living with some threats. So there’s a tendency not to react as strongly as Japan and/or the United States.”

“I think the obvious next step is going back to the (United Nations) Security Council. This time we will likely get a stronger response than (that to the North’s) rocket launch since there is no ambiguity ... but whether the council will have any tools to use is another question. Against North Korea, it seems highly unlikely.”

XU GUANGYU, RESEARCHER, CHINA ARMS CONTROL AND DISARMAMENT

ASSOCIATION

“This came unexpectedly quickly. But North Korea has been seeking ways to pressure the United States and South Korea to open up dialogue with them.”

“North Korea’s strategic objective hasn’t changed. That objective is to win the attention of the Obama administration, to push the North Korea issue up the agenda.”

Xu said China may support a U.N. resolution censuring North Korea but would not back much harsher sanctions.

“China’s goal is to ensure that the six-party talks process does not fall apart. Stricter sanctions are not going to achieve that objective. So China may have to compromise with the United States in the Security Council, but it won’t want to back strong sanctions. They simply won’t help solve the problem.”

DILIP SHAHANI, CREDIT ANALYST, HSBC, HONG KONG “I don’t think it will have a long term impact. It seems like North Korea is attempting to undermine the current administration (in South Korea), which is already feeling some heat from what the press is saying about the former President passing away.”

“You may get some short-term reaction but the reality is North Korea is quite well contained by the western world and China does not really want North Korea to do anything. The North Koreans are trying to get the negotiations back to what is more favorable to them. This is to help build public pressure in South Korea that there is a need to soften the stance (on North Korea).”

KOH YU-HWAN, PROFESSOR OF NORTH KOREA STUDIES, DONGKUK

UNIVERSITY

“This test, if confirmed, could indicate North Korea’s decision to work at securing actual nuclear capabilities.”

“North Korea had been expecting the new U.S. administration to mark a shift from the previous administration’s stance, but is realizing that there are no changes. It may have decided that a second test was necessary.”

“There does not seem to be any specific correlation with the death of former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. North Korea seems to be reacting to the U.S. and South Korean administrations’ policies.”

DAVID MANN, HEAD OF KOREA RESEARCH, FX STRATEGIST, STANDARD

CHARTERED, HONG KONG

“The key point here is that we normally see the use of the nuclear card by the North as a means of extracting concessions and using it as a diplomatic tool.”

“This is another setback but it is not something we feel will have a lasting impact on the market. This may create just a short-term, knee-jerk reaction.”

“We think South Korea along with India and Indonesia will continue to be the three main leaders in the rally in (Asia ex-Japan) currencies.”

SHUNJI HIRAIWA, SHIZUOKA PREFECTURAL UNIVERSITY, JAPAN

“If North Korea conducted this test, it is in line with their demands that the United Nations (Security Council) withdraw its resolution and apologize, and that the United States engage in direct negotiations.”

“But last time they conducted a nuclear test, in 2006, they gave a final warning, and I think it is a bit strange that they didn’t do so this time. It seems as if they ought to have sent more of a message first, then watched the U.N. and U.S. reactions and given a final warning.”

“The last time the United States changed its stance after North Korea conducted a nuclear test, so the North probably thought that unless they did so again, the United States wouldn’t change. But I don’t think this time the United States will alter its stance.”

DONG YONG-SUENG, SENIOR FELLOW, SAMSUNG ECONOMIC RESEARCH*

“North Korea had already hinted at the possibility of a nuclear test and this test underscored its strong will to hold a nuclear deterrent.

“Timing-wise, it seems like the North pushed ahead with its own schedule set before, regardless of what the South is dealing with including death of former President Roh Moo-hyun.

“Financial markets cannot help but react sensitively because of the big uncertainties about which direction the nuclear problem will evolve in this time.”

MOON HONG-SIK, PROFESSOR, CHUNG-ANG UNIVERSITY “North Korea’s nuclear test, if it is confirmed, is certainly earlier than expected. It reflects North Korea’s discontent with the United Nations and the United States, and its firm determination to take up another ‘battle’ with them.”

“I don’t think this is connected to the death of former President Roh Moo-hyun. The test had been on the North’s schedule and it just stuck to it.”

KIM SUNG-HAN, KOREA UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR

“The reported test appears to be aimed at securing ultimate endorsement of its nuclear power status from the United States and bringing Washington to the negotiation table.”

“I don’t think they planned this to cause great uncertainty in South Korea while it is dealing with the death of a former president, but the test could cause uncertainty about the stability of the Korean peninsula.”

“It could increase investor concerns about South Korea as the test may further worsen already soured inter-Korea relations.”

Reporting by Jack Kim, Miyoung Kim, Angela Moon, Kim Yeon-hee and Marie-France Han in SEOUL; Linda Seig and Kei Okamura in TOKYO; Kevin Plumberg and Umesh Desai in HONG KONG; Chris Buckley in BEIJING; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner

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