North Korea conducts sixth nuclear weapons test, most powerful yet
North Korea claims it has successfully tested a missile-ready hydrogen bomb which is several times more powerful than an atomic bomb. The development comes hours after an earth tremor was detected by seismologists which was 9.8 times more powerful than the one recorded during the North's fifth nuclear test. Japan has condemned the test while South Korea has convened emergency security council talks.
The South Korean military had earlier presumed Pyongyang had conducted a nuclear explosion. It had speculated that the tremors originated form North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where Pyongyang's previous nuclear tests were conducted. The US Geological Survey recorded a magnitude-6.3 tremor, indicating this would be the North's most powerful nuclear test. The Chinese Earthquake Administration said the tremors point to a "suspected explosion."
"The government confirms that North Korea conducted a nuclear test after examining information from the weather agency and other information," stated Japanese foreign minister, Taro Kono while speaking to reporters.
According to KCNA, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un recently visited the Nuclear Weapons Institute and "watched an H-bomb to be loaded into a new ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile)." KCNA also released pictures where Kim is supposedly examining the H-bomb. It describes the new weapon as "a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes."
North Korea has been running an ambitious nuclear program since the 1950s despite performing poorly on several socio-economic indicators. It has conducted five nuclear tests from 2006-16. Its leadership's spontaneous behavior and threatening rhetoric, frequently directed at the US, has created an atmosphere of insecurity.
July 28: North tested an ICBM which has purportedly brought the entire US within its strike range. August 6: UN imposes fresh sanctions on Pyongyang. August 9: North Korea threatens to attack the US Pacific territory of Guam after Trump threatens Pyongyang with "fire and fury". August 29: North Korea fires a missile which flew over Japan in an "unprecedented threat."
North Korea's sixth nuclear test can be taken as a sign of its increased confidence. Experts have expressed doubts over Pyongyang's claims to have developed an H-bomb. Opinions differ on whether the North has mastered missile re-entry technology and miniaturized nukes. In any case, North Korea seems to be moving steadily towards mastering the above and is likely to perfect them soon.