HONG KONG — North Korea says it has successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb test, which if confirmed, will be a first for the reclusive regime and a significant advancement for its military ambitions.
A hydrogen bomb is more powerful than plutonium weapons, which is what North Korea used in its three previous underground nuclear tests.
“If there’s no invasion on our sovereignty we will not use nuclear weapon,” the North Korean state news agency said. “This H-bomb test brings us to a higher level of nuclear power.”
A senior U.S. administration told CNN it could take days to obtain the scientific data to determine whether this was a successful test.
The South Korean defense ministry said it too could not immediately confirm whether the test was what the North claimed it was, but the country’s foreign ministry hastily convened an emergency meeting. Officials in Japan were also holding discussions.
The test took place at 10 a.m. local time, the regime said in a televised statement.
The seismic event, which measured the event at a magnitude of 5.1, occurred 19 kilometers (12 miles) east-northeast of Sungjibaegam, the United States Geological Survey said.
The North Koreans have signaled for some time the test was a possibility, said Mike Chinoy, with the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California.
“Kim Jong Un made public statement a few weeks ago saying that (the country was) developing a hydrogen bomb.
“The fact that the test has taken place, assuming it was successful, complicates the situation in Northeast Asia.”
“Beijing had been becoming more friendly,” he said.
Being more warm and cordial was hoped to restrain North Korea but now this places the Chinese authorities in a big dilemma.
South Korea has also said a fourth test would be a watershed moment that would warrant a response, Chinoy said.
There is currently no diplomacy from the U.S. to restrain the nuclear development, so this test “also puts the U.S. on the spot.
“Will any of their steps do anything to restrain North Korea? My guess is probably not.”
Japan quickly issued a strong condemnation, saying the test was a “serious threat” to its security.
“It clearly violates the UNSC resolution and is a serious challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation efforts,” said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Heavily militarized country
North Korea’s internationally isolated regime is a heavily militarized state with a huge standing army of 1.2 million active soldiers and 7.7 million reservists.
But its conventional weaponry is dated, with limited effectiveness, and it has looked to developing its nuclear capabilities to project power internationally.
The country declared it had nuclear weapons in 2003, and conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
In May last year, it said it had the ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons, a development that would allow it to deploy nuclear weapons on missiles. A U.S. National Security Council spokesman responded at the time that the United States did not think the North Koreans had such a capability.
David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector, told CNN last year that Pyongyang could already have 10 to 15 atomic weapons, and that it could grow that amount by several weapons per year.
He said he believed Pyongyang had the capability to miniaturize a warhead for shorter missiles, but not yet for intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.