(National Sentinel) War Drums: North Korea has conducted its sixth — and to date, most powerful – underground nuclear test, ramping up additional tension in a part of the world where tensions are already maxed.
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the test came after leader Kim Jong-un’s government allowed a photo of him inspecting the hydrogen device to be published by state-run media:
In a televised statement, North Korea described the underground explosion, which triggered a large earthquake, as a “perfect success in the test of a hydrogen bomb for an ICBM.” Pyongyang said “the creditability of the operation of the nuclear warhead is fully guaranteed.”
The test came just hours after leader Kim Jong Un showed off what he described as a hydrogen bomb capable of being mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The explosion at the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri in North Korea’s mountainous northeast triggered an initial magnitude-6.3 earthquake, followed by a magnitude-4.1 temblor that was possibly caused by a structural collapse, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
U.S. officials are uncertain what may have caused the second tremor, but intelligence officials using satellite imagery have been tracking increased tunneling activity near the test site in recent months.
Any structural collapse could very well have been tied to that, WSJ reported.
The latest test was estimated to have produced a 100-kiloton yield, far larger than previous detonations and 10 times bigger than Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test last year. A 100-kiloton weapon is about five times larger than the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945.
The latest test will put additional pressure on Trump, who has talked tough to North Korea in recent months, making this the first real foreign policy challenge of his nascent presidency.
More from WSJ:
South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, said after a 90-minute emergency meeting of the National Security Council that Seoul would consider the possible deployment of what he described as the “most powerful strategic assets that the U.S. possesses,” without elaborating, according to a statement from the presidential Blue House.
The phrase “strategic assets” typically refers to stealth bombers, aircraft carriers or possibly nuclear weapons. The U.S. withdrew the last of its nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991.
In Sunday morning tweets, the president said North Korea’s “words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.” He also noted: “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.” And: “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”
“The national security team is monitoring this closely,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday morning. “The president and his national security team will have a meeting to discuss further later today. We will provide updates as necessary.”
Experts believe that Kim is stepping up the pace of nuclear development so he can use the capability as a bargaining chip in any future negotiations with the U.S.
“The Kim regime made the strategic decision to develop a nuclear armed ICBM that can strike the United States,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, told WSJ. “It is in a sprint to deploy that capability, because it wants the world to recognize it before returning to diplomatic talks, and before sanctions become unbearable.”
Others have said Kim believes having a nuclear capability will ensure his regime remains in power.
Whatever his reasons, he’s made it crystal clear he’s not about to dial back his development efforts. The overnight nuclear test follows a brazen test of an ICBM that sailed over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido last week.
The Chinese government has condemned the test, in no uncertain terms. North Korea “has ignored the international community’s widespread opposition, again carrying out a nuclear test. China’s government expresses resolute opposition and strong condemnation toward this,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson added: “There’s no question that this is another provocation, it’s reckless. They seem to be moving closer towards a hydrogen bomb which, if fitted to a successful missile, would unquestionably present a new order of threat.”
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