According to North Korea’s state media, the isolated nation successfully conducted its fourth nuclear test Wednesday morning. If the claims are true, North Korea is likely on its way to developing nuclear weapons capable of fitting onto missiles and reaching the mainland of the United States.
It also appears that an artificial earthquake occurred near a known nuclear test site in North Korea which was consistent with the explosion of a nuclear bomb.
North Korean television announced shortly thereafter that the nation successfully tested a “miniaturized hydrogen bomb,” describing the test as an “act of self-defense” against the United States.
As of yet, North Korea’s claims are not independently verified. John Carlson, the former head of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, pointed out that, “If it’s true, it means they’ve made something smaller scale, capable of being put onto a missile. I think we can assume the previous tests they’ve carried out have been devices too large to fit onto a missile.”
Some experts, including South Korea’s spy agency, suspect that the preliminary evidence pointed towards a test of a plutonium or uranium explosive and not the more powerful hydrogen bomb, as claimed by Pyongyang.
Yang Uk, a researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, stated that, “Given the [earthquake’s] scale, it is hard to believe this is a real hydrogen bomb. They could have tested some middle stage kind (of device) between an A-bomb and H-bomb, but unless they come up with any clear evidence, it is difficult to trust their claim.”
Despite the skepticism, the North Korean state TV broadcast reported and reiterated that the test – overseen by Kim Jong-un – was a “complete success,” thereby placing the country among the “rank[s] of advanced nuclear states.”
The broadcast further reported that, “[North Korea’s] fate must not be protected by any forces, only by [North Korea] itself. The U.S. has gathered forces hostile to DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and raised a slanderous human rights issue to hinder DPRK’s improvement. It is just to have H-bomb as self-defense against the U.S. having numerous and humongous nuclear weapons. The DPRK’s fate must not be protected by any forces but DPRK itself.”
The Obama administration reported that it could not confirm or refute North Korea’s claims, but did state that the United States will respond as necessary in order to defend its allies. The European Union further added that North Korea’s nuclear weapon test was a “grave violation” of many United Nations (UN) resolutions.
The President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, emphatically announced that his country would take decisive actions against any further provocations by its northern neighbor and that it would cooperate with the international community to ensure North Korea pays the price for its actions.