Meanwhile, North Korean officials continue to express satisfaction over their country's claimed successful nuclear test.
"I am very much proud of our scientists and researchers who have conducted such a very, very successful nuclear underground test," North Korean Ambassador to the UN Pak Gil Yon said on October 9 to journalists in New York.
strong, swift and very clear in its message and its action." -- Japanese ambassador
But the mood at the UN itself is very different. Security Council members have unanimously condemned Pyongyang's actions. And they are looking for ways to rein North Korea in.
"Council members emphasized that the response of the council should be strong, swift and very clear in its message and its action," said Japanese Ambassador to the UN Kenzo Oshima, who is also the council's president for October.
U.S. Proposes Stiff Sanctions
The United States circulated a draft resolution to punish Pyongyang as the Security Council met on October 9. Washington is urging the Security Council to impose sanctions under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Chapter 7 authorizes the UN to use all means -- including force -- to ensure compliance.
Even as it now must debate the U.S. proposal, the Security Council has made it clear it wants North Korea to refrain from conducting further tests and to return to "six-party talks" that include China, Russia, the United States, Japan, and the two Koreas.
Washington would like the Security Council to go much further, including halting any international trade with North Korea that could include material used in making weapons of mass destruction.
The 13-point U.S. draft resolution also would impose international inspections of cargo going in and out of North Korea, and end financial transactions that could be used to support nuclear proliferation.
China, Russia Leave Door Open
The question now is how much China and Russia will support Washington's intended crackdown. China is North Korea's main trading partner and Russia, to a lesser extent, also has political and trade ties with Pyongyang.
Both Beijing and Moscow say they want Pyongyang to disarm, but fear for regional stability if the crisis is not solved through negotiations.
"I think that we have to react firmly but also I believe that on the other hand that the door to solve this issue from the diplomatic point of view is still open," China's ambassador to the UN, Wang Guangya, told reporters on October 9.
On October 10, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao added at a news briefing in Beijing: "From China's perspective, we are firmly opposed to war as a means to resolve the nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. This is our firm position. It is known to the whole international community.
"As for the second question, China has been long dedicated to good-neighborly and friendly relations with [North Korea]," he continued. "This remains unchanged. We don't need to deny that the nuclear tests by [North Korea] has a negative impact on our relations with [North Korea], and we hope [North Korea] will give a positive response to the appeal of the international community and honor its commitment to denuclearization and refrain from any act that may worsen the situation."
Inscrutable Pyongyang Regime
North Korea's reported test at 10:36 a.m. local time on October 9 has yet to be fully confirmed by sources other than Pyongyang. But the world reaction leaves little doubt that most governments are operating on the assumption the test was real and dramatically adds to the urgency of the North Korea nuclear crisis.
The declared test appears to mark a sharp change of course for North Korea, which has long claimed it has nuclear weapons but, at times, looked ready to abandon its weapons programs in exchange for aid and trade with the West and security guarantees.
Now, experts say, it is not immediately clear what Pyongyang wants as it declares itself the latest country to join the exclusive club of nuclear powers.
Pyongyang itself remains ambiguous in its messages. South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified North Korean official threatening today to put nuclear warheads on missiles and to conduct further tests -- acts that would escalate the crisis further.
But at the same time, the agency quoted the official in Pyongyang as saying, "we are still willing to abandon nuclear programs and return to six-party talks."
Other mysteries in the crisis remain the size of the nuclear weapon Pyongyang claims to have tested and whether it is portable enough to place on missiles.
No Going Back
But whatever the answers to these questions, it remains clear the crisis has reached a new level and tensions cannot easily be reduced
U.S. President George W. Bush said on October 9 that intelligence officials are still trying to confirm Pyongyang's claim it carried out an underground test. But he said that the declaration itself "constitutes a threat to international peace and security."
The United States and other countries worry that a nuclear North Korea represents a greater threat to other regional states like South Korea and Japan.
They also worry that Pyongyang, a proven proliferator of nuclear technology, could spread its nuclear weapons secrets to other countries eager to develop their own arsenals.
DECLARED NUCLEAR-WEAPONS COUNTRIES:
country warheads (est.) date of first test
United States 10,500 1945
Russia 18,000 1949
United Kingdom 200 1952
France 350 1960
China 400 1964
India 60-90 1974
Pakistan 28-48 1998
North Korea 0-18 2006
Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, but it has not declared itself a nuclear-armed country.
South Africa constructed six uranium bombs but voluntarily dismantled them.
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine all gave up the nuclear weapons that were on their territory when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.