UN Atomic Monitor Ready for North Korea Nuclear-Bomb Test

The United Nations agency that detects and reports on nuclear-weapon explosions is ready to respond to North Korea’s planned testing of an atomic bomb.

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization runs 285 monitoring sites and can verify a successful North Korean atomic explosion the day it occurs, Annika Thunborg, a spokeswoman, told journalists today. The organization gave its members data confirming North Korea’s last test in 2009 within two hours of the blast, she said.

“They have said a nuclear test is a demand of the people and that a demand of the people is something more than a nuclear test,” Thunborg said at a briefing with UN officials in Vienna. North Korea’s preparation for the test is “nearly complete,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Kim Min Seok, told reporters today in Seoul.

The UN organization, created in 1996 to verify nuclear detonations worldwide, operates a network of seismic-, infrasound- and radionuclide-detection stations that can pick up signals caused by an atomic explosion. It was originally set up to enforce a treaty prohibiting nuclear-test blasts. The treaty hasn’t come into force because it hasn’t been ratified by countries including China, the U.S., Israel and Iran.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed “high-profile” retaliation against the U.S. and its allies for increasing UN sanctions against his government, building on last week’s pledge to test a nuclear device.

‘Grave Situation’

Kim convened a meeting of foreign affairs and security officials on Jan. 26 to discuss the “grave situation” caused by “hostile forces,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported. “The U.S. has reached its height in its anti-DPRK strategy,” KCNA said, referring to the country’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The comments reinforced the North’s Jan. 24 threat to test an atomic weapon after the UN Security Council tightened restrictions against the totalitarian state for launching a rocket last month.

“In the last 15 years, only North Korea has violated this international norm with its tests,” Thunborg said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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