A South Korean official in Seoul points to an area where North Korea reportedly… (Yonhap )
BEIJING – North Korea tested a nuclear device Tuesday, state media said, defying international pressure to stop such activities and drawing quick condemnation from the White House.
State media said North Korea successfully detonated a miniature atomic bomb underground in a test geared toward protecting its safety and sovereignty from the United States.
The White House, meanwhile, issued a statement saying "these provocations do not make North Korea more secure."
“Far from achieving its stated goal of becoming a strong and prosperous nation, North Korea has instead increasingly isolated and impoverished its people through its ill-advised pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery," the White House statement said.
PHOTOS: North Korea tests nuclear device
This is the third nuclear test for North Korea, and it comes on the heels of its launch in mid-December of a multistage rocket that put a small satellite into orbit. The technology for a satellite launch is similar to that of an intercontinental ballistic missile, with the main difference being the type of payload it carries.
Experts believe North Korea is still far from making a nuclear weapon that can reach the United States but that it is making strides quickly.
A nuclear test had been suspected Tuesday before state media reported the underground test because South Korea had detected signs of a man-made seismic event across its northern border.
The North Korean official news agency said the device was more powerful than the previous two the country had tested and was aimed at keeping its archrival, the United States, in check.
The size of the bomb is significant because North Korea hopes to build a warhead small enough to be mounted on a missile that can reach American soil.
Experts said it was too early to tell whether the device contained highly enriched uranium, which is easier to conceal. The last two North Korean nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 used plutonium.
“To be able to tell whether they have tested uranium or plutonium, we have to collect the gas leaked from the … test site,” said Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry. “We can't tell for sure for now.”
Russia and Britain reportedly condemned the North Korean nuclear test, which defied United Nations instructions to shutter its atomic program or risk greater sanctions.