Norway condemns new nuclear test

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The Norwegian government was quick to join other countries around the world on Tuesday in condemning North Korea’s announcement during the night that it had conducted a new and more powerful underground test of its nuclear capability. Norwegian Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide was clearly disturbed by the news.

Espen Barth Eide, who took over as Norway's foreign minister earlier this autumn after being defense minister, is unusually frank in his concerns for cooperation with Russia. PHOTO: Forsvarsdepartementet

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide was deeply disturbed on Tuesday by North Korea’s announcement of its latest, and more powerful, nuclear test. PHOTO: Forsvarsdepartementet

“This is extremely serious,” Eide told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday morning. Eide called North Korea’s nuclear test “a considerable challenge” to the already-fragile stability of the east Asian region.

“We condemn this in the strongest of terms,” Eide told NRK, adding that North Korea’s test was a violation of international accords.

Asked what he feared the most, Eide said: “For one thing, it’s extremely serious in itself that North Koreea is now testing both rockets and nuclear weapons. The fear is that they’re testing out explosives that are small enough and effective enough to go into one of the rockets they’re developing.

“For another thing, I fear that the response from other countries can lead to further destabilization in a region where there already is considerable tension. So this is serious for international peace and security.”

The announcement from North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency claimed the test was carried “as part of practical measures of counteraction to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious and hostile act of the US.” CNN reported that the announcement was referring to new US-led sanctions against North Korea following a recent long-range rocket launch.

Tuesday’s nuclear test also follows previous detonations in 2006 and 2009 that also upset world leaders, and it seems to indicate that North Korea’s young new leader, Kim Jong Un, is following his late father’s police of continuing to build up the isolated nation’s military force. It’s also a defiant act, timed for the day when newly re-elected US President Barack Obama was due to deliver the annual State of the Union address.

As the United Nations called an emergency session of its Security Council later in the day, Norway’s foreign minister said government leaders all over the world “have all reason to be worried” about a new arms race in Asia. Tensions are already high between China and several of its neighbours over territorial rights to islands and the seas from Japan to the South China Sea.

‘Direct challenge’
The defense minister for South Korea, where Norway has a major embassy and many business interests, called the nuclear test “a direct challenge against the international community and an unforgivable threat to peace and stability” on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia.

Amidst the international outcry, authorities in China, which has been North Korea’s only powerful ally, were slow to respond. Eide said he wouldn’t rule out even more sanctions against North Korea, which otherwise had started showing a few signs of openness towards the outside world.

“I think the answer is to keep trying to get a broad political dialogue underway to get North Korea to stop this,” Eide told NRK. “Sanctions are probably part of the picture, but there’s a bigger picture too. If North Korea wants to be in good company (with the rest of the world), there must be possibilities for that.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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