Shortly after the news that North Korea announced it was in possession of an "advanced Hydrogen bomb", to which we said that if "the bomb appears to be authentic, it would confirm that the North is preparing for its most provocative action yet: its sixth nuclear test, which would force Trump to respond, having vowed never to allow North Korea to become a nuclear power with offensive capabilities", this is precisely what happened, when on Sunday morning, North Korea conducted what appears its sixth nuclear test, triggering a tremor 10 times as powerful as that from its test a year ago and just hours after it showed off what it called a hydrogen bomb capable of being mounted on a long-range missile.
The U.S. Geological Survey said it had recorded a M6.3 earthquake that it described as a “possible explosion” in northeastern North Korea—near the site of Pyongyang’s past nuclear tests—at a depth of zero kilometers at noon Pyongyang time. The agency initially assessed it to be a magnitude-5.1 temblor.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff assumed North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test, after an artificial earthquake was detected near the site of the North’s previous nuclear tests earlier today. Additionally, the Korea Meteorological Administration said that it had detected a revised magnitude-5.7 earthquake in the same area of North Korea, in what it described as likely being a “man-made” earthquake.
Because earthquakes are measured using a logarithmic scale, a magnitude-6.3 quake would be 10 times as powerful as the one triggered by the North’s September 2016 nuclear test, which triggered a magnitude-5.3 earthquake, according to the USGS.
Leaving all suspense out of it, shortly after the earthquake reports, North Korea says Kim Jong-un ordered the test of a hydrogen bomb that can be fitted onto an ICBM, and the device was successfully detonated. Additionally, North Korea confirmed the nuclear test on local television, adding that it had been a "perfect success."
Experts who studied the earthquake, which was measured by the U.S. Geological Survey at magnitude 6.3, said that there was enough evidence to suggest the North has either developed a hydrogen bomb or was getting very close, accoding to Reuters.
Since the North carries out its tests in defiance of UN sanctions and international condemnation, the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said the nuclear test was “an extremely regrettable act” that was “in complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community."
In response to the nuclear test, which will be the harhest test of Trump's diplomatic resolve vis-a-vis North Korea yet, a spokesman for South Korea’s military said that it had strengthened its military posture in response to the likely nuclear test, adding that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had preliminarily assessed the incident to be a nuclear test. Elsewhere, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his country would work together with the U.S., South Korea, China and Russia on a response to the apparent nuclear test.
“We can never accept it. We will need to make a strong protest,” Mr. Abe said. It is unclear just how a "strong protest" will change anything at this point.
According to the WSJ, North Korea’s September 2016 test had a likely yield of about 10 kilotons, larger than any of its previous four tests, but likely short of the hydrogen bomb that Pyongyang claimed that it detonated. In this case, the magnitude-6.3 explosion would likely mean explosive power of around a megaton, according to Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
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A day after Russian President Vladimir warned that the US and North Korea are “balancing on the verge of a large-scale conflict," North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is doing everything in his power to validate Putin’s words.
To wit, in a segment broadcasted Saturday by the Korean Central Broadcasting Network, the North’s state-run television-news network, the regime claimed that it has “succeeded in making a more developed” hydrogen bomb. In the broadcast, Kim can be seen looking on as a purported thermonuclear warhead is loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, which KCNA described as having “great destructive powers." KCNA added that all hydrogen bomb components are homemade, so the North can "produce as many as it wants." The report also claimed that the North have developed a powerful electromagnetic pulse weapon.
According to the Wall Street Journal, experts fear an attack with this type of weapon could wipe out electrical networks in the U.S.
Here are more details from Dow Jones Newswires:
- North Korea Says It Has ‘Succeeded in Making a More Developed’ Nuclear Weapon
- Kim Jong Un Witnesses Hydrogen Bomb Being Loaded onto a ‘New ICBM’ —North Korea State Media
- New Hydrogen Bomb’s Explosive Power Goes Up to Hundreds of Kilotons —North Korea State Media
- North Korea Threatens ‘Super-Powerful’ EMP, or Electromagnetic Pulse, Attack
- North Korea Claims All Hydrogen Bomb Components Are ‘Homemade,’ Can Produce ‘As Many As It Wants’
Reuters explains that the hydrogen bomb's power is adjustable to hundreds of kilotons and can be detonated at high altitudes. Kim Jong Un "set forth tasks to be fulfilled in the research into nukes," KCNA said, but it made no mention of plans for a sixth nuclear test.
As a reminder, in July, the North launched two ICBMs capable of reaching the US mainland, and after a monthlong break, Kim resumed his provocative missile tests last Friday by launching three short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan – and then on Monday, in another unprecedented provocation, the North fired an intermediate-range missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Of course, there is no way of knowing whether the warhead is authentic, though we’re sure the intelligence community’s army of analysts will promptly opine one way or the other. Here’s Reuters with a more detailed account of the broadcast…
“Kim visited the country’s Nuclear Weapons Institute and “watched an H-bomb to be loaded into new ICBM,” KCNA said. “All components of the H-bomb were homemade and all the processes ... were put on the Juche basis, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants, he said.”
Juche is North Korea’s homegrown ruling go-it-alone ideology that is a mix of Marxism and extreme nationalism preached by state founder Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather.
Kim Jong Un “set forth tasks to be fulfilled in the research into nukes,” KCNA said, but it made no mention of plans for a sixth nuclear test.”
Whether or not the claim of having an H-bomb is a fabrication, professional observers of the Kim regime warn that the report is a signal that the North Korean leader is preparing to carry out what would be the country's sixth nuclear test. North Korea last year conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests, claiming that the fourth in January 2016 was a successful hydrogen bomb test, though outside observers raised doubts about this claim. The North conducted a fifth nuclear test in September 2016, which was measured to be possibly North Korea’s biggest detonation ever, but the earthquake it caused was still not believed to be big enough to demonstrate a thermonuclear test, according to Reuters.
And at least one observer who weighed in on Twitter said that the bomb appears to be authentic, which would confirm that the North is preparing for its most provocative action yet: its sixth nuclear test, which would force Trump to respond, having vowed never to allow North Korea to become a nuclear power with offensive capabilities.
First, as with the fission weapon they showed us in March 2016, we can't prove it's real without an expert or a test. 2/— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) September 2, 2017
But maybe more like boosted than thermo nuclear... we've been expecting a 6 nuclear test, possibly thermonuclear for some time 5/— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) September 2, 2017
They've even dug out a whole new tunnel at Punggye-ri... 6/— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) September 2, 2017
Back to the photos, again, we don't know if this thing is full of styrofoam, but yes, it is shaped like it has two devices. 7/ pic.twitter.com/Rzr7Di3qrM— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) September 2, 2017
It doesn't NEED to be shaped like that on the outside, but they threw in a diagram, just so we would get the message. 8/ pic.twitter.com/z06zdeZDAB— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) September 2, 2017
They also showed off the physics package for good measure. 9: pic.twitter.com/iAX5X0pAbW— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) September 2, 2017
They also showed a nosecone, looks like HS-12 paint job, but I'll need to look for more photos. 10/ pic.twitter.com/4E5iZegwOT— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) September 2, 2017
This WILL help @DaveSchmerler and me measure though. 11/— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) September 2, 2017
The bottom line is that they probably are going to do a thermonuclear test in the future, we won't know if it's this object though. /12— Melissa Hanham (@mhanham) September 2, 2017
Meanwhile, China and Russia have repeatedly urged the US and North Korea to engage in talks – even going so far as to offer a “roadmap” to de-escalation that would ask the North to halt progress on its missile program while the US and South Korea end military exercises. As always, we await a response from President Donald Trump, who spent Saturday visiting disaster victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. As WSJ noted, the State Department has yet to comment.