Pyongyang gave Washington hour's notice; Obama plays golf
Earth News

Mon, 25 May 2009


Washington - North Korea gave Washington about an hour's notice before its early Monday morning test of a nuclear explosive device that was estimated to be "a few kilotons" in strength, a senior US government official said. An e-mail late Monday from the US State Department attributed to an unnamed senior administration official gave a rundown of the events leading up to the second nuclear device test since 2006 by the Pyongyang regime.

While a response of condemnation kept US President Barack Obama working well past midnight and into early Monday morning, just hours later he laid a memorial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at the military's burial grounds, Arlington National Cemetery, to commemorate Memorial Day, and then played more than four hours of golf.

The notice about the upcoming test from Pyongyang to Washington came about 0000 GMT Monday, with no definitive mention of time. The United States immediately notified the governments of Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia of the warning, according to the statement.

"Less than one hour" later, the 0100 GMT explosion was registered by the US Geological Survey, close to the site of North Korea's 2006 test of a nuclear device, the official said.

The US official was skeptical about any claims by North Korea of the size of the explosion, which registered at 4.7 on the Richter scale by the USGS.

"We have also seen the North Korean claims of the size of the test and note that in 2006 North Korea vastly overstated the size of that test," the official said.

The US government said the characteristics that were recorded suggested an explosive yield of "approximately a few kilotons" of TNT. Added analysis was being carried out over the coming days.

Stressing the "importance of a strong, unified approach," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

spoke with her Japanese and South Korean counterparts in the six party talks about the test and was to talk with the Chinese and Russian foreign ministers in the course of the day.