North Korea Confirms ‘Successful’ Nuclear Test

North Korea, February 12, 2013 – North Korea conducted its third test of a nuclear device Tuesday, raising fears of conflict in northeast Asia and new questions about whether the isolated authoritarian regime can be stopped in its decades long effort to develop nuclear weapons.

The explosion was first suspected after a magnitude 4.9 earthquake was detected shortly before noon local time about 235 miles northeast of the capital Pyongyang, near the site of the country’s previous nuclear tests.

The Japanese prime minister’s office held an emergency session, saying, “there is a possibility that a nuclear test was conducted by North Korea based on the previous cases.”

About two hours later North Korean state media confirmed the test, according to an Associated Press report from Pyongyang.

The test follows North Korea’s successful December satellite launch, which demonstrated improved long-range missile technology.

Last month North Korea’s National Defense Commission warned that it would carry out a “higher level” nuclear test which was targeted at the U.S.

It comes two weeks ahead of the swearing-in of South Korean president Park Geun-hye, a sign of the sharp security tests her new administration will face.

It also coincides with heightened regional animosity in East Asia, with China and Japan at odds over East China Sea islets claimed by both nations.

But North Korea’s test is a reminder that it remains the greatest regional security threat, with its leadership unbowed by international condemnation and its weapons capability apparently