PYONGYANG, North Korea, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- North Korea claimed it safely tested its third nuclear device underground Tuesday, a move South Korea called an "unacceptable threat."
Hours after seismic activity was detected at the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test complex, North Korea's Central News Agency said the detonation used a smaller nuclear device compared to its two earlier nuclear tests and was conducted in a safe manner, Yonhap reported.
"The test was conducted in a safe and perfect way on a high level with the use of a smaller and light A-bomb unlike the previous ones, yet with great explosive power," KCNA said in the English translation. "The specific features of the function and explosive power of the A-bomb and all other measurements fully tallied with the values of the design, physically demonstrating the good performance of the [North Korean] nuclear deterrence that has become diversified."
Once confirming the nuclear test occurred, South Korea said in a statement the test violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The nuclear test "is an unacceptable threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the region and a head-on challenge to the international community," the statement said. "North Korea won't be able to avoid grave responsibility."
U.S. President Obama called the test a "highly provocative act" that violates the country's obligations under "numerous" U.N. Security Council resolutions, is contrary to its commitment to the so-called Six Party Talks and increases the risk of proliferation.
Iran may allow visit to Parchin base
TEHRAN, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Iran may consider allowing U.N. inspectors to visit the Parchin military base provided Iran's nuclear rights are acknowledged, an Iranian official said.
"We are ready to reach a comprehensive agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency including acknowledgment of Iran's legitimate rights, and in that case also the inspection of Parchin could be one of the agreements," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reports in Tehran Tuesday.
The Parchin military base is some 19 miles southeast of Tehran. Since 2005, Iran has denied the IAEA access to the site.
He confirmed reports that Iran is converting part of its 20 percent enriched uranium into fuel for the Tehran Research reactor and said reports have been sent to the IAEA., the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
He said Tehran repeatedly asked the IAEA to assist in supplying the fuel but when the requests were ignored, "we started to meet our demands with the help of the Iranian experts."
State of the Union: Jobs and middle class
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama was expected in his State of the Union speech Tuesday to outline "his plan to create jobs and grow the middle class," the White House said.
"You will hear in the president's State of the Union an outline from him for his plan to create jobs and grow the middle class," White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the 9 p.m. speech before a joint session of Congress.
"The middle class is the engine that drives this country forward and which will, if it is given the right tools and the right opportunities, drive us forward in the 21st century," Carney said.
Obama himself previewed his speech last week, telling congressional Democrats meeting in Leesburg, Va., Thursday creating middle-class jobs means focusing "on education and that every young person is equipped with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century."
"It means that we've got an energy agenda that can make us less dependent on foreign oil, but also that we're cultivating the kind of clean energy strategy that will maintain our leadership well into the future," Obama said.
"It means that we're going to talk about, yes, deficits and taxes and sequesters and potential government shutdowns and debt ceiling -- we'll talk about that stuff, but all from the perspective of how are we making sure that somebody who works hard in this country -- a cop, or a teacher, or a construction worker, or a receptionist -- that they can make it if they work hard, and that their kids can make it and dream even bigger dreams than they have achieved."
The sequester refers to automatic across-the-board spending cuts to defense and domestic programs, amounting to close to $1 trillion over 10 years, set to go into effect March 1 without congressional action.
If Obama talks about avoiding the sequester or reducing the federal deficit through more tax revenue from the wealthiest Americans and less spending cuts, he will face a bitter fight from Republicans, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
White House: Hagel Senate nod almost firm
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Chuck Hagel will almost surely win Senate confirmation as the U.S. defense secretary, the White House said ahead of a committee vote on his nomination Tuesday.
"We believe firmly that Senator Hagel will be confirmed as the next secretary of defense," White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the former senator from Nebraska ahead of a Senate Armed Services Committee vote after public discussion, starting at 2:30 p.m. EST.
Hagel, 66, faced sharp and sometimes angry questioning from fellow Republicans, especially former ally Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at his confirmation hearing Jan. 31.
The full Senate vote could come as early as Wednesday, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Fugitive ex-cop may be headed to Mexico
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Airport security workers were warned to be on the alert Monday in Southern California as the hunt continued for a former Los Angeles police officer.
Christopher Dorner, 33, who was trained as a marksman in the Navy, is suspected of killing three people. Documents filed Monday in federal court suggested investigators believe he had help eluding a massive dragnet, the Los Angeles Times reported.
A federal marshal said in an affidavit a property in the Arrow Bear area owned by the family of an associate of Dorner is under surveillance. The associate was identified as "J.Y." The property is near where a gray Nissan pickup truck believed to have been used by Dorner was found in flames.
Security on the Mexican border was strengthened Monday, the Times said. That step and the airport warning suggest investigators believe Dorner is headed to Mexico or is already there.