North Korea feels world’s wrath

WASHINGTON: Global leaders quickly directed their anger at North Korea on Monday for carrying out a nuclear bomb test that US President Barack Obama called a threat to world peace.

While South Korea put its military on alert, the UN Security Council called an emergency meeting to discuss the North Korean blast -- a much bigger follow up to its first nuclear test in 2006 -- and reports that it also tested a short range missile.

"These actions, while not a surprise given its statements and actions to date, are a matter of grave concern to all nations," Obama said in a statement.

"North Korea's attempts to develop nuclear weapons, as well as its ballistic missile programme, constitute a threat to international peace and security." "The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants action by the international community," said the US president.

South Korea's President Lee Myung-Bak chaired a special national security council meeting and his spokesman, Lee Dong-Kwan, said the North's test posed a "grave challenge" to international non-proliferation efforts.

In Japan, government spokesman Takeo Kawamura warned: "Japan will take stern action against North Korea." "We have to coordinate among Japan, South Korea and the United States and take firm action. For us, it raises tensions in the region extremely," said Prime Minister Taro Aso, whose country led calls for the UN Security Council emergency session which was to be held later Monday in New York.

The main powers on the council all strongly condemned North Korea with France urging sanctions against Kim Jong-Il's Stalinist administration.

Even China, the secretive North's closest international ally, called on its neighbour to ease tensions and expressed "resolute opposition" to the blast.

"China strongly demands that North Korea keeps its promise of denuclearisation and ceases all actions that could further worsen the situation," the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russia, which has also sought a role in efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and is current chairman of the Security Council, called the test a threat to peace.

"The latest steps by North Korea provoke an escalation of tensions in northeast Asia and threaten the security and stability of the region," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown denounced the nuclear test as a "danger to the world" that would not help North Korea's security.

France called on the UN Security Council to impose tough new sanctions against North Korea.

"France is concerned and condemns this test in the strongest terms. It is without a doubt a violation of international law and engagements made by North Korea to the international community," government spokesman Luc Chatel said. "Therefore France asks for the strongest sanctions." European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana also called for "a firm response by the international community." South Korea, Russia, China, the United States and United Nations have sought to engage the North in so-called "six-party" talks on denuclearising the communist state.

But a 2007 accord has broken down with the North's test-firing of a long range missile this year. North Korea angrily reactivated its nuclear programme this year after being condemned by the UN Security Council for that action.

Many experts have accused North Korea of using the test blast as a means to secure international concessions.

Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said: "They have serious economic problems, they struggle to feed their people and they are lacking everything. They are clearly engaged in a cynical game where they are using nuclear technology to gain economic and energy advantages." Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country takes over the EU presidency on July 1, said: "It is alarming that the North Korean regime continues to provoke the international community." "In a poor and oppressed society, the very closed regime is spending enormous resources on these increasingly serious provocations," he said.