By Elise Labott
Kazakhstan, the venue for the latest round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, offers the kind of symbolism the United States hopes will serve as a model for Iran.
The former Soviet Republic gave up a formidable nuclear stockpile after achieving independence in the 1990s and now is in negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency to host a bank of nuclear fuel that would eliminate the need for a county like Iran to enrich uranium for themselves.
"Kazakhstan made very, very fundamental decisions to give up their nuclear weapons, to have a peaceful civil nuclear program," a senior U.S. official told reporters in Almaty, the nation's former capital. "In many ways, they are a model of what is possible."
From 1949 through 1989, the Soviet Union conducted hundreds of nuclear tests and experiments, both underground and above ground, at Kazakhstan's Semipalatinsk test site.
By Elise Labott
Iran has begun installing advanced new centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment site at Natanz that are capable of accelerating production of fuel for a nuclear weapon, a move that senior U.S. officials warned could jeopardize upcoming talks aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The disturbing revelation comes as the "P5 plus one" diplomatic bloc of countries is preparing to offer a package of incentives to Iran to close its underground facility at Fordow and ship out its stockpile of uranium already enriched to a high purity level of 20%.
"This can't help the talks," a senior US official said.
The P5 plus one bloc consists of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
By Elise Labott and Barbara Starr
North Korea's nuclear test Tuesday set off a diplomatic scramble for America's new secretary of state as the U.S. national security community began working with other countries to try to determine what North Korea truly achieved.
The test was was not a total surprise, senior administration officials said. North Korea warned the United States and China on Monday that it would be undertaking a nuclear test, two senior administration officials told CNN. The warning came in the form of a message through the "NY channel," which is the U.S. mission to the United Nations, North Korea's typical method for passing messages to the United States. The warning was not specific on timing, but the officials said Washington took it to mean the test could happen at any moment.
After the test was detected late Monday night, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with South Korea's foreign minister. He's also expected to talk with the foreign ministers for China, Japan and Russia. The United States began coordinating its own response with inter-agency calls between Washington and Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow and Beijing. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim and Gen. James Thurman, commander of the US-Republic of Korea Combined Forces Command, met with the South Korean defense minister.
The U.S. intelligence community and military began the process of assessing the test and North Korea's claims and by morning concluded an underground nuclear test had probably been conducted.
By Ed Payne, CNN
Reaction to North Korea's nuclear test - its third since 2006 - poured in Tuesday from around the world:
Barack Obama, U.S. president:
"This is a highly provocative act that ... undermines regional stability, violates North Korea's obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and increases the risk of proliferation.
North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region."
"The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies."FULL STORY
Editor's note: Mike Chinoy, a senior follow at the University of South California, the author of Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis and a former CNN senior international correspondent explains the implications of North Korea's third nuclear test.
By Mike Chinoy
North Korea has conducted an underground nuclear test using more sophisticated technology than its previous two attempts, drawing widespread international condemnation.
It's the first test carried out under the secretive nation's young leader Kim Jong Un and threatens to undermine an already fragile security situation in the region.
How worried should we be about North Korea's nuclear test?
It's worrying but does this mean they can drop a nuclear weapon on Los Angeles? Absolutely not. The notion that they are going to target the U.S. is way off the mark.
Any time the North Koreans stage a test, it significantly improves their nuclear capabilities. This comes after they staged a rocket launch that was successful, a long range rocket which appears to have put a satellite into orbit. What they need to achieve to have the weapon they want is the capability to miniaturize a warhead and put it on a rocket. This test isn't going to do that in and of itself, but it is a significant step forward.FULL STORY
By Jethro Mullen
North Korea said Tuesday that it had conducted a new, more powerful underground nuclear test using more sophisticated technology, jolting the already fragile security situation in Northeast Asia and drawing condemnation from around the globe.
It is the first nuclear test carried out under the North's young leader, Kim Jong Un, who appears to be sticking closely to his father's policy of building up the isolated state's military deterrent to keep its foes at bay, shrugging off the resulting international condemnation and sanctions.
It also provided a provocative reminder of a seemingly intractable foreign policy challenge for President Barack Obama ahead of his State of the Union address later Tuesday.
"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.," the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, referring to new U.S.-led sanctions on Pyongyang in the wake of a recent long-range rocket launch.FULL STORY
By Jethro Mullen
North Korea's plans for a new nuclear test, like most things that happen inside the reclusive state, are shrouded in mystery. But that's not stopping analysts and officials from making some informed guesses about what's going on.
Why is North Korea planning to conduct a nuclear test?
The North says the "higher level" test is part of its military deterrent in its confrontation with the United States, which it describes as "the sworn enemy of the Korean people."
Its declaration that it would carry out the test came just two days after the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of imposing broader sanctions on the regime in response to Pyongyang's long-range rocket launch in December that was widely viewed as a test of ballistic missile technology.
The pattern of events is similar to the lead-up to the previous nuclear tests North Korea carried out in 2006 and 2009.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr and Elise Labott
The United States believes North Korea is ready "at any time" to conduct a nuclear test, American officials tell CNN.
"We think they are preparing for a test," one U.S. official told CNN Wednesday. "We are watching it all as closely as we can."
U.S. officials say they are bracing for a third test by Pyongyang "soon," although they caution it's near impossible to predict the timing.
"One thing for sure," a senior official told CNN. "They will definitely test a nuclear weapon. But the tricky thing is, nobody can tell you for your day planner that is when it will be."
One official explained the United States is not certain about the timing of a test because it would happen underground and the final preparations can't be observed by satellite.
By Kevin Voigt, CNN
North Korea's intention to carry out a new nuclear test, coming on the heels of December's successful satellite launch, suggests that Pyongyang is moving forward toward developing a nuclear warhead and a deliverable missile system, experts say. The question remains: How close are they?
The answer, like the cloistered "hermit kingdom," remains largely a mystery as does much of its nuclear program.
"It's a question over the delivery system and the reliability of those systems," said Daniel Pinkston, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group covering Northeast Asia. "That is essentially unknown, or known by a few people inside North Korea."FULL STORY
A defiant North Korea is threatening both the United States and South Korea in response to the United Nations decision to invoke additional sanctions on Pyongyang for it's rocket launch late last year.
Calling the U.S. a sworn enemy of North Korea, the government of Kim Jong Un vowed to launch more missiles and conduct a nuclear test.
Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr looks into how dangerous the North's nuclear capability really is.