Should the U.S. Take Action After North Korea's Nuclear Test?

The international community replied in vehement opposition to North Korea's latest nuclear testing, and may impose more sanctions.

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On Tuesday North Korea conducted a third nuclear test in open defiance of international pressure to abandon its nuclear ambitions. The isolated Asian country provoked condemnation from the United Nations and countries around the world, and may now be subject to further sanctions.

President Barack Obama, set to deliver the State of the Union address Tuesday night, called the test "a highly provocative act." He said that with further nuclear pursuit, North Korea is increasingly isolating itself rather than making itself more secure. Obama also called for action in response to the test:

The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies. We will strengthen close coordination with allies and partners and work with our Six-Party partners, the United Nations Security Council, and other UN member states to pursue firm action.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on North Korea.]

Korean Central News Agency, the North's official state-operated media outlet, said it has a peaceful and sovereign right to launch satellites. It maintained that while the test was conducted safely, it had "great explosive power."

Tuesday's test was also denounced by fellow Security Council members Russia, Britain, and the body's current president and North Korea's neighbor, South Korea. A statement from all 15 Security Council members delivered by South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said the body would pursue action to get North Korea to "abandon its nuclear ambition."

The test is North Korea's third in seven years, and violates several Security Council Resolutions. It is the first conducted since Kim Jong Un took office, and demonstrates consistency with the country's policy of disregarding international threats in response to its continued nuclear program.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on defense spending.]

China, which doesn't currently participate in the sanctions against North Korea, expressed "staunch opposition" to the test. China had discouraged the test, and it called for "all parties concerned to respond calmly." Since North Korea is already so cut off from the rest of the world, China is one of the only countries that has any power to punish the nuclear hopeful—there aren't many other actions that can be taken by either the United States or the United Nations with hopes of actually having an impact. China has until now refused to stop sending aid, fearing instability in the region.

A military response from the United States is thought to be highly unlikely.

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