North Korea announced today it had successfully carried out its first hydrogen bomb test, a development that, if confirmed, would marking a stunning step forward in its nuclear development.
“The republic’s first hydrogen bomb test has been successfully performed at 10:00am on January 6, 2016, based on the strategic determination of the Workers’ Party,” a state television news reader announced.
Meanwhile, the US vowed to respond appropriately to North Korea’s provocations after the reclusive nation claimed that it had carried out a hydrogen bomb test. “We will continue to protect and defend our allies in the region, including the Republic of Korea, and will respond appropriately to any and all North Korean provocations,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
“With the perfect success of our historic H-bomb, we have joined the rank of advanced nuclear states,” the announcer said, adding that the test was of a “miniaturised” device. The surprise test was personally ordered by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and came just two days before his birthday.
Only last month, during remarks made during an inspection tour, Kim had suggested Pyongyang had already developed a hydrogen bomb — although the claim was greeted with scepticism by international experts. A hydrogen, or thermonuclear device, uses fusion in a chain reaction that results in a far more powerful explosion. “The latest test, completely based on our technology and our manpower, confirmed that our newly-developed technological resources are accurate and scientifically demonstrated the impact of our miniaturised H-bomb,” the TV announcer said. The announcement will leave the international community scrambling to verify the accuracy of the North’s claims. Most experts had assumed Pyongyang was years from developing a thermonuclear bomb, while assessments were divided on how far it had gone in mastering the technology to miniaturise a device that could fit on a ballistic missile. While vowing to stick by a no-first use policy, Wednesday’s statement said Pyongyang would continue to pursue an advanced nuclear strike capability. “As long as the vicious anti-North policy of the US persists, we will never stop development of our nuclear programme,” it said. The United States Geological Survey reported a 5.1 magnitude quake that South Korea said was 49 km (30 miles) from the Punggye-ri site where the North has conducted nuclear tests in the past. “We suspect a man-made earthquake and are analysing the scale and epicentre of the quake,” a Korea Meteorological Administration official told Reuters by phone. Meanwhile, the Japanese government said that an earthquake recorded in North Korea might have been caused by a nuclear test. “Considering past cases, there is the possibility that this might be a nuclear test by North Korea,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, said at a regular briefing, adding that Tokyo was analysing the situation. While the USGS put the depth of the earthquake at 10 km, the South Korean agency said it was near the surface. The earthquake was detected just after 10 a.m. Seoul time (0100 GMT). North Korea plans a major announcement later on Wednesday, likely at 0330 GMT, South Korean media said. South Korea’s presidential office convened an emergency security meeting while Japan’s chief government spokesman said the earthquake was likely caused by a nuclear test. The last North Korean nuclear test, in 2013, registered at 5.1 on the U.S.G.S. scale. North Korea is known to have conducted three nuclear tests and is under U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile programmes.