North Korea conducts fifth and largest nuclear test

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North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on Friday, setting off a blast that was more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and said it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile.

Its most powerful explosion to date follows a test in January that prompted the U.N. Security Council to impose tightened sanctions that increased North Korea's isolation but failed to prevent it from accelerating weapons development.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, in Laos after a summit of Asian leaders ended there on Thursday, said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was showing "maniacal recklessness" in completely ignoring the world's call to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons.

U.S. President Barack Obama, aboard Air Force One on his way home from Laos, said the test would be met with "serious consequences" and held talks with Park and with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the White House said.

China, North Korea's only major diplomatic ally, said it was resolutely opposed to the test and urged Pyongyang to stop taking any actions that would worsen the situation.

See inside North Korea's nuclear facilities:

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North Korean nuclear facilities
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North Korean nuclear facilities
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JULY 2, 2015: Figure 3. Transformer Yard at the ELWR. Date: July 2, 2015. Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. Mandatory credit: Image © 2015 DigitalGlobe Inc./38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JULY 2, 2015: Figure 4. Construction at the Uranium Enrichment Facility. Date: July 2, 2015. Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. Mandatory credit: Image © 2015 DigitalGlobe Inc./38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JULY 2, 2015: Figure 1. Vehicles at the 5 MWe Reactor. Date: July 2, 2015. Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. Mandatory credit: Image © 2015 DigitalGlobe Inc./38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 29, 2015: Figure 2. Probable CO2 truck seen at the 5 MWe Reactor in April. Date April 29, 2015. Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. Mandatory credit: Image © 2015 DigitalGlobe Inc./38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - May 24, 2015: Figure 4. Continued construction at the uranium enrichment facility. Note: image rotated. Date: May 24, 2015. Published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 4, 2014: This is Figure 3 -- DigitalGlobe imagery shows new activity seen at the Radiochemical Laboratory. Note: image rotated -- published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 11, 2015: This is Figure 4B. ELWR activity in January 2015. Note: image rotated. Date: January 11, 2015 -- published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - May 24, 2015: Figure 3: 5 MWe Reactor on May 24vehicles present, no indications of steam or water discharge. Note: image rotated. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - May 24, 2015: Figure 2. Power line service to 5 MWe Reactor area. Note: image rotated. Date: May 24, 2015. Published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 28, 2014: This is Figure 1 -- DigitalGlobe imagery of the 5 MWe Reactor appears to still be shutdown -- published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 27th, 2015: Figure 6a. Construction material visible at the Main Support Area at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site in North Korea. Date: March 27, 2015. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MAY 16, 2015: Figure 6b. An old building has been re-roofed and a new building has been erected at the Main Support Area at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site in North Korea. Date: May 16, 2015 (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 7, 2013: This is Figure 9. a time progression of the experimental light water reactor (ELWR) development at the Yongbyon Nuclear Facility in North Korea. Featured in “Start-Up of North Korean Experimental Light Water Reactor Could Begin by Mid-2013 If Fuel is Available,” published on 38 North. Figure 9: February 7, 2013 (reactor building complete, cleanup underway). (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
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North Korea, which labels the South and the United States as its main enemies, said its "scientists and technicians carried out a nuclear explosion test for the judgment of the power of a nuclear warhead," according to a report from its official KCNA news agency.

North Korea said the test proved it is capable of mounting a nuclear warhead on a medium-range ballistic missile, which it last tested on Monday when Obama and other world leaders were gathered in China for a G20 summit.

Its claims of being able to miniaturizes a nuclear warhead have never been independently verified.

RELATED: Major cities in range of North Korea's No Dong missile

North Korea has been testing missiles at an unprecedented rate this year, and the capability to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile is especially worrisome for its neighbors South Korea and Japan.

"The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable the DPRK to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power," KCNA said, referring to the country's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Japan Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said the Pyongyang regime's advances in mobile ballistic missile technology posed a grave threat to Japan.

SEVERE CHALLENGE

North Korea's nuclear test coincided with the anniversary of its 1948 foundation as a republic.

Its continued testing despite sanctions presents a severe challenge to Obama in the final months of his presidency and could become a factor in the U.S. presidential election in November.

"Sanctions have already been imposed on almost everything possible, so the policy is at an impasse," said Tadashi Kimiya, a University of Tokyo professor specializing in Korean issues.

RELATED: Tension between North and South Korea

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Tension between South and North Korea
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Tension between South and North Korea
A man watches a TV screen showing a file footage of the missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 18, 2016. North Korea defied U.N. resolutions by firing a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea on Friday, Seoul and Washington officials said, days after its leader Kim Jong Un ordered weapons tests linked to its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The letters on the screen read " The missile puts all of South Korea and part of Japan within striking distance." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
An anti-war protester clenches his fist during a rally opposing the joint military exercises, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, between the U.S. and South Korea, near the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 19, 2016. North Korea ignored U.N. resolutions by firing a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea on Friday, Seoul and Washington officials said, days after its leader Kim Jong Un ordered weapons tests linked to its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The letters at a card read " Stop military exercise". (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
People watch a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 15, 2016. North Korean leader Kim has warned of impending tests of a nuclear warhead explosion and ballistic missiles capable of carrying atomic warheads, state media reported Tuesday, in an escalation of threats against Seoul and Washington. The screen reads "Nuclear technology." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean army soldiers ride a K-1 tank during the annual exercise with their U.S. counterparts in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Thursday, March 10, 2016. North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Thursday, South Korea's military said, a likely show of anger at continuing springtime war games by rivals Washington and Seoul and another ratcheting up of hostility on the already anxious Korean Peninsula. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Anti-war protesters stage a rally opposing the joint military exercises, dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, between the U.S. and South Korea, near the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 19, 2016. North Korea ignored U.N. resolutions by firing a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea on Friday, Seoul and Washington officials said, days after its leader Kim Jong Un ordered weapons tests linked to its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The letters at banners, read" Stop military exercise". (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
People watch a TV screen showing a file footage of a missile launch conducted by North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 18, 2016. North Korea defied U.N. resolutions by firing a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea on Friday, Seoul and Washington officials said, days after its leader Kim Jong Un ordered weapons tests linked to its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The letters on the screen read " North Korea fired a missile against the ongoing joint military exercises,dubbed Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, between South Korea and the United States.: (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
FILE - In this March 10, 2016, file photo, U.S. Army soldiers conduct the annual exercise with their South Korean counterparts in Pocheon, near the border with North Korea. North Korea said Saturday, March 12, 2016, its military is ready to pre-emptively attack and "liberate" the South in its latest outburst against the annual joint military drills by the United States and South Korea. In a statement carried through state media, the General Staff of the North's Korean People's Army said its frontline units are prepared to strike first if they see signs that American and South Korean troops involved in the drills were attempting to invade the North. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)
People watch a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with superimposed letters that read: "North Korea has made nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles" at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. The official North Korean news agency says the communist country's leader Kim met his nuclear scientists for a briefing and declared he was greatly pleased that warheads had been miniaturized for use on ballistic missiles. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean protesters shout slogans during a rally criticizing U.N. sanction on North Korea and upcoming joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 5, 2016. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his military on standby for nuclear strikes at any time, state media reported Friday, an escalation in rhetoric targeting rivals Seoul and Washington that may not yet reflect the country's actual nuclear capacity. The banners read " Stop the joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea," and "Park Geun-hye, step down." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
North Korean defectors wearing masks of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attend a rally against North Korea's rocket launch and nuclear test in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A woman poses for a souvenir photo in front of ribbons hanging on a wire fence for the reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Transmission towers supplying power to the Kaesong Industrial Complex from South Korea, are seen on a foggy and rainy day after South Korea cut off power, in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Tourists take their souvenir photos in front of ribbons hanging on a wire fence wishing for the reunification of the two Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Tourists take their souvenir photos with a directional sign showing the distance to North Korea's Kaesong city and South Korea's capital Seoul at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
One of owners who run a factory in the suspended inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, covers his face with his hands during an emergency meeting, held by the council of South Korean companies operating in the industrial park, in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war."(AP Photo/Ahnn Young-joon)
South Korean vehicles pass near the military barricade as a soldier, right, stands in the foggy and rainy morning at Unification Bridge near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean Army soldiers walk on a foggy and rainy morning at Unification Bridge near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean Army military polices check the vehicles on a foggy and rainy morning at Unification Bridge near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo speaks in a televised press conference, as owners watch it during an emergency meeting held by the council of South Korean companies operating in the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial complex, in Seoul, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war."(AP Photo/Ahnn Young-joon)
South Korean owners who run a factory in the suspended inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, attend an emergency meeting held by the council of South Korean companies operating in the industrial park, in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of the factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war."(AP Photo/Ahnn Young-joon)
South Korean owners who run factories in the suspended inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex, attend an emergency meeting in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war."(AP Photo/Ahnn Young-joon)
In this Feb. 11, 2016, photo, power supply towers are seen in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea. South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean business men return from North Korea's joint Kaesong Industrial Complex at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war."(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Koreans holding umbrellas wait for their companies' vehicles returning from North Korea's joint Kaesong Industrial Complex after crossing the Unification Bridge, near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul's earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North's recent rocket launch a "dangerous declaration of war." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean Army soldiers patrol at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. North Korea on Thursday ordered a military takeover of a factory park that was the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, saying Seoul's suspension of operations at the jointly run facility was a "dangerous declaration of war." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A man watches a television news program reporting about the recent rocket launch by North Korea at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Under the gaze of armed soldiers, large white trucks streamed across the world's most armed border Thursday as South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea. The South's suspension will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch. The letters read: "North, Long range missile launch." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A South Korean man holding a crossed North Korean flag shouts slogans among placards with crossed portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pasted with the radiation warning symbol during an anti-North Korea rally in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Under the gaze of armed soldiers, large white trucks streamed across the world's most armed border Thursday as South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea. The South's suspension will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Pictures of North Korean flags, the North's leader Kim Jong Un and North's missiles are burned by anti-North Korea protesters during a rally in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Under the gaze of armed soldiers, large white trucks streamed across the world's most armed border Thursday as South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea. The South's suspension will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch.(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean vehicles returning from North Korea's joint Kaesong Industrial Complex pass the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea, a move that will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean Army soldiers patrol at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea, a move that will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A South Korean Army soldier stands guard at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. South Korean workers on Thursday began shutting down a jointly run industrial park in North Korea, a move that will end, at least temporarily, the Koreas' last major cooperation project as punishment over Pyongyang's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A visitor looks at a map of the Korean peninsula at the exhibition hall of the unification observatory in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. South Korea says it will suspend the operations at a joint industrial park with North Korea in response to the North's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A visitor looks at the map of Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea at its showroom at the unification observatory in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. South Korea says it will suspend the operations at a joint industrial park with North Korea in response to the North's recent rocket launch. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Visitors use binoculars to see the North Korean territory from the unification observatory in Paju, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. South Korea said Wednesday that it would suspend operations at a joint industrial park with North Korea in response to the North's recent rocket launch, the first time in the park's decade of operation that Seoul has halted work there. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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"In reality, the means by which the United States, South Korea and Japan can put pressure on North Korea have reached their limits," he said.

Japan's Abe said such a nuclear test could not be tolerated. Japan's foreign minister lodged a protest and Tokyo also sent two military jets to begin measuring for radiation.

China's environment ministry began emergency radiation monitoring along its borders with North Korea in northeast China, state television reported.

RELATED: North Korean seismic activity since 2000

Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies said the highest estimates of seismic magnitude suggested this was the most powerful nuclear test conducted by North Korea so far.

He said the seismic magnitude and surface level indicated a blast with a 20- to 30-kilotonne yield. Such a yield would make this test larger than the nuclear bomb dropped by the United States on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in World War Two and potentially bigger than that dropped on Nagasaki soon after.

"That's the largest DPRK test to date, 20-30kt, at least. Not a happy day," Lewis told Reuters.

"The important thing is that five tests in, they now have a lot of nuclear test experience. They aren't a backwards state any more," he said.

(Reporting by Jack Kim, Ju-min Park, James Pearson, Nataly Pak, and Yun Hwan Chae in SEOUL; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, Kaori Kaneko and Linda Sieg in TOKYO, and Eric Beech in WASHINGTON; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Tony Munroe; Editing by Paul Tait)

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