By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service, who has reported from North Korea
NORTH KOREA (ANS – Jan 5, 2016) — The North Korean authorities say they have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb amid reports of a tremor near the main nuclear test site.
According to the BBC, State media announced the test after monitors detected a 5.1 magnitude quake close to the Punggye-ri site.
The North is thought to have conducted three previous underground nuclear tests there since 2006.
A hydrogen bomb uses fusion to create a blast far more powerful than that of a more basic atomic bomb.
Stephen Evans, BBC Korea correspondent, says, “This test was apparently a hydrogen bomb, a step up in destructive power from the plutonium used in previous tests. It gives more explosive power for a lighter weight.
“After the test in 2013, there was widespread condemnation. The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting at which its members, including China, “strongly condemned” the test. Similar outrage is expected this time. Prime Minister Abe of Japan has said this fourth test was a “serious threat to the safety of his nation.”
“On top of any fourth nuclear test, North Korea also appears to have tested a submarine-launched missile. The ability to launch missiles from submarines would change the whole calculation of military response because warning times of an attack on, for example, the West Coast of the United States would be much shorter.
“Before the test, North Korean state media said the country ‘deserved to hold nuclear weapons… to counter nuclear threats by the US.’
“Experts believed before the fourth test that North Korea was still some years from being able to hit a target with a nuclear bomb delivered by a missile. But it is crystal clear that it is absolutely determined to be able to do so. It is also clear that it is improving its abilities rapidly.”
The BBC went on to say that If confirmed, it would mean Pyongyang is intent on pursuing its nuclear program with little regard for the major political and diplomatic costs that will inevitably accompany this unwelcome development, says Dr. John Nilsson-Wright of Asia Program at Chatham House.
In a surprise announcement a newsreader on North Korean state TV said: “The republic’s first hydrogen bomb test has been successfully performed at 10:00 am on January 6, 2016.”
Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Pyongyang had developed a hydrogen bomb, although international experts were skeptical.
What is a hydrogen bomb? (BBC)
* A weapon energized by the nuclear fusion of hydrogen isotopes in a chain reaction, developed in 1958 by the United States
* Also known as a thermo-nuclear bomb, it is seen as a “cleaner” bomb than an atomic one as it has less radioactive fallout – but also much more powerful
* Unlike an atomic bomb, powered by nuclear fission, a hydrogen bomb is powered by the fusion of lighter elements into heavier elements
* Such bombs can be as small as a few feet long and can fit in warheads of ballistic missiles
Suspicion of a test was first raised after the US Geological Survey said the epicenter of the quake – detected at 10:00 Pyongyang time (01:30 GMT) was in the north-east of the country, some 30 miles from Kilju city, near Punggye-ri.
The BBC’s Kevin Kim in Seoul says analysts will now focus on trying to detect if any gases have leaked from the subterranean explosion to conclude what type of nuclear material may have been used, if it indeed it was a test of a hydrogen bomb.
Photo captions: 1) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shown attending an apparent submarine missile test last year. (Reuters). 2) The North’s threat coincided with a visit to Seoul by the US special envoy on North Korea (Photo: Reuters) 3) Dan Wooding with Dr. David Cho standing by the huge statue of Kim Il-sung, founder of North Korea, in Pyongyang.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the author of some 45 books and has two TV programs and one radio show in Southern California, and has reported widely for ANS from all over the world, including from North Korea. He is one of the only a few Christian journalists to be allowed inside North Korea, where he did daily reports for the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC.
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