North Korea has carried out its biggest ever nuclear test, a direct challenge to Donald Trump and a provocation which will sharply raise tensions in north-east Asia.
North Korea claims to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, the country’s sixth-ever test of a nuclear weapon and first since US President Donald Trump took office.
The test was a “perfect success” and the final step in attaining a “state nuclear force,” long-time news anchor Ri Chun Hee said in a televised announcement Sunday.
The news report claimed the weapon was designed to fit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile. The nuclear test follows two successful tests of the long-range missile in July and a shorter-range one in late August.
In a high-level national security meeting, South Korea President Moon Jae-in called the move a “an absurd strategic mistake” that will lead to the international community further isolating Pyongyang.
Experts say it is nearly impossible to verify with certainty Pyongyang’s claim that it detonated a hydrogen bomb, which is also known as a thermonuclear weapon, or whether it can actually be used successfully on a missile. Thermonuclear weapons typically use a fission explosion to create a fusion reaction, which is far more powerful than a fission reaction.
NORSAR, an independent seismic monitor, estimated the blast created a yield of about 120 kilotons. The tremors caused by North Korea’s Sunday test were at least 10 times more powerful than the fifth test, Japanese officials said. An official at the Korea Meteorological Administration estimated the blast was about 50 kilotons.
The test came just hours after North Korea released images of leader Kim Jong Un inspecting what it said was a hydrogen bomb ready to be put on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the type of weapon the country would need to use to deliver a nuclear warhead to far-away locations.
“We shouldn’t be surprised by the fact they had the test, but usually they spread it out a bit,” said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate in the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS).
Hanham said it’s impossible to say if the peanut-shaped object shown in the images released by North Korean state media was detonated.
“When you’re evaluating these explosions, you have to do it with a grain of salt because you’re trying to mold a mathematical equation to something that’s happening in the real world. And the equations can to grip on things like depth or the geology of the area, and we don’t know those kinds of facts,” she said.