North Korean Nuclear Test Dominates Global News Agenda

North Korea Nuclear Test H

From New York to Tokyo to Seoul, headlines in response to the underground nuclear test range from outrage to simply "Not Again..."

Following reports of strange tectonic activity on the Korean peninsula, North Korean state media confirmed in the early hours of Tuesday that the country had successfully tested a third nuclear weapon.

A statement from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency was reported by Agence France Presse and quickly circulated around the world. The statement said: “The test was carried out as part of practical measures of counteraction to defend the country’s security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S., which wantonly violated [North Korea]’s legitimate right to launch satellite for peaceful purposes.”

Coverage of the nuke test and its potential fallout on international diplomacy immediately dominated global news headlines on Tuesday.

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The nuclear-test story bumped coverage of the Pope’s resignation to the second slot on the New York Times’ web site. The paper also ran an analysis of the difficult diplomatic challenge North Korea’s rogue action presents to China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, who had recently urged discretion from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The Wall Street Journal, CNN,  Guardian and BCC all gave the story top billing.

In South Korea, the news was getting constant coverage on every TV news channel and website, with most headlines ranging in tone from outrage and hard-line condemnation to mock impassivity. Korean newswire Yonhap and the Korea Economic Daily both ran headlines reading, “Not Again…”

The following statement from South Korea’s new President-elect Park Geun-hye has also led most headline coverage in the country: "I strongly condemn North Korea's third nuclear test, which was carried out in spite of adamant protests by us and the international community. North Korea's nuclear test is a serious threat to the Korean Peninsula and international peace. It also hampers the process of building trust between the two Koreas and undermines peacemaking efforts."

Many second-tier South Korean stories focused on how China and the United States likely will react to the coverage, with editorialists hoping for an aggressive condemnation from China and speculating as to what diplomatic trump cards the North still holds now that it’s literally indulged the ‘nuclear option.’

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Chinese state media’s initial coverage has been more vocally critical of the test than past reporting was of North Korea’s nuclear activities. Both Xinhua and People’s Portal ran headline reports of the test, which highlighted Ban Ki-moon and South Korean president Park Geun-hyee's protests. Past initial coverage in the aftermath of North Korean nuclear tests included dogmatic statements respecting the North’s sovereignty to carry out its own operations. This time, Xinhua News tweeted the Chinese foreign ministry’s official line, which read: “Foreign Ministry: China 'resolutely' opposes the latest nuclear test conducted by the DPRK.”

In Japan, the nuclear test was top news on every bulletin but didn't receive the kind of blanket coverage that North Korea's long-range missile launch did last year. Public broadcaster NHK focused on reaction from around the globe to today's detonation, with a particular eye on statements coming out of China. NHK, along with other broadcasters, noted the strong condemnations coming from Chinese state media outlets, compared to statements of tacit support for Pyongyang in the past.

Right-wing daily the Yomiuri Shimbun, the world's biggest newspaper by circulation, led with stories about the underground nuke test, as did business heavyweight the Nikkei. However, the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun had replaced North Korea as the lead story by early evening with a report about a train crash injuring 16 in western Japan, and the paper even bumped the Pope's resignation back to the top of the international news page on its web site.