National Security Brief: North Korea Tests Nuclear Weapon

North Korea has confirmed that it tested a nuclear weapon in the north east part of the country on Tuesday. The New York Times reports that “[p]reliminary estimates suggested a test far larger than the previous two conducted by the North, though probably less powerful than the first bomb the United States dropped on Japan, in Hiroshima, in 1945.”

Shannon N. Kile, an expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said in a statement the international community will now focus on two main technical questions about the test. The first is whether the North Koreans’ latest test used highly enriched uranium instead of plutonium, as it had in its past two tests, and whether there can be confirmation that the test used a “miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously,” as the North Koreans said. Kile notes, “a successful North Korean test of such of a compact design would bring it one step closer to being able to build a long-range ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.”

President Obama issued a statement in response, calling the nuclear test “a highly provocative act” that “violates North Korea’s obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and increases the risk of proliferation.” The statement said the danger posed by the North Korean activities “warrants further swift and credible action by the international community.”

In other news:

  • Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) is set to make history, pledging to be the first U.S. Senator ever to filibuster the president’s choice for Secretary of Defense. When asked if he would filibuster Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next Pentagon chief, Inhofe said, “Yes, I will.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) scoffed at the idea. Someday, we will have a Republican president. Someday, we may even have a majority in the United States Senate,” McCain said. “It sets, I think, a wrong precedent.”
  • The Washington Post reports: The Pentagon is pushing a plan that would keep about 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan once the NATO military mission there ends in 2014 but significantly shrink the contingent over the following two years, according to senior U.S. government officials and military officers.
  • The AP reports: The Veterans Affairs Department said Monday it has added more than 1,000 mental health professionals and 200 support staff over the past eight months to meet the needs of returning veterans, but still has more to do to meet the requirements of an executive order issued by President Barack Obama.