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World Leaders Denounce N. Korea Nuclear Test

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World Leaders Denounce N. Korea Nuclear Test

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World Leaders Denounce N. Korea Nuclear Test

World Leaders Denounce N. Korea Nuclear Test

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World leaders are condemning North Korea's reported underground nuclear bomb test today. The latest on reactions by the White House and the U.N. Security Council.

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, I'm Robert Siegel.

The United States is facing a major diplomatic challenge, now that North Korea has carried out an underground nuclear test. North Korea claims today's test was even larger than its previous one in October of 2006. The UN Security Council has condemned the test in an emergency session. And this morning, President Obama stood on the steps of the White House urged countries to standup to North Korea's actions.

President BARACK OBAMA: North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose a grave threat to the peace and security of the world. And I strongly condemn their reckless action. North Korea's actions endanger the people of northeast Asia. They are a blatant violation of international law and they contradict North Korea's own prior commitments.

SIEGEL: Well joining us now is NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen. And Michele, what more do we know about the test?

MICHELE KELEMEN: The organization that monitors the nuclear test ban treaty said that this explosion took place very close to the previous test in 2006. And while the North Koreans say that this one is a bigger one, these experts say that the magnitude of the tremor was only slightly higher compared to 2006. But we are not hearing people downplay this event. We're certainly hearing a lot of concern - and not only about this nuclear test, but also about new missile tests. Because all of this comes at a time when the six party nuclear disarmament talks are stalled.

SIEGEL: Well President Obama says that this action will only isolate North Korea. But does that actually seem to be making a difference? Is isolation conditioning North Korean actions here?

KELEMEN: That - that's the question, I mean, it always arises how much more can North Korea be isolated. The U.S. doesn't really have a whole lot of options here. The Bush administration actually took North Korea off a terrorism blacklist last year, so that's one bit of leverage that's gone. China has a lot more influence, North Korea is one of its neighbors and you'll likely see the U.S. working that angle as much as possible. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we're told, has been working the phones talking to all the members of the six party talks and that includes China.

And of course, the U.S. is also working through the U.N. Security Council, which held an emergency session today. But getting tougher sanctions or something concrete from the Security Council is going to take some time.

SIEGEL: What have the Chinese and the others said about this test?

KELEMEN: The Chinese foreign ministry put out a statement saying that it was resolutely opposed to the test. Russian officials have also been condemning the test saying it's an issue of serious concern. But getting these two to back sanctions is another story. I mean China has been trying to revive these disarmament talks and it might not want to do anything that it sees as too drastic to get in the way of that.

SIEGEL: Michele, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised some eyebrows earlier this year when she talked about a succession debate in North Korea. How is that likely to complicate the diplomacy?

KELEMEN: Probably a lot - you know, it's always difficult to read the North Korean political environment. Secretary Clinton, when she was in South Korea earlier this year, did say that, you know, she didn't think it was a big deal to talk about the succession debate in the hermit kingdom - those were her words. but you haven't heard U.S. officials talking a lot in public about it these days, you know, privately they say that they do think that there's a power struggle underway after Kim Jong-il suffered a stroke last year.

They think that this might be one reason why we're seeing increasingly belligerent behavior from the North, but there doesn't seem to be any easy way or clear way to deal with that. And there's not really a clear line of succession. So, you know, where people are talking about this privately and quietly, but not as openly as Secretary Clinton did.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen. Thanks a lot, Michele.

KELEMEN: My pleasure, Robert.

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