SEOUL, South Korea (6th UPDATE) – North Korea said Sunday, September 3, it tested a hydrogen bomb which it can mount on a missile, declaring its biggest-ever nuclear detonation a “perfect success” and sparking a strong rebuke from President Donald Trump who slammed its actions as “dangerous” to the US.
Pyongyang residents threw their arms aloft in triumph as a jubilant television newsreader hailed the “unprecedentedly large” blast.
It “marked a very significant occasion in attaining the final goal of completing the state nuclear force,” she added.
But world reaction was swift and angry. US President Donald Trump said on Twitter Pyongyang’s “words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”
The US leader refrained from direct threats but branded the North “a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”
South Korea, Trump added, “is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”
The US Treasury Department will prepare a package of sanctions that would “cut off North Korea economically,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Hours before the test the North released images of leader Kim Jong-Un at the Nuclear Weapons Institute, inspecting what it said was a miniaturized H-bomb that could be fitted onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
China lost no time in issuing “strong condemnation” of the test, which overshadowed the opening of the BRICS summit in Xiamen by leader Xi Jinping.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described it as “absolutely unacceptable” while Russia’s foreign ministry expressed “strongest condemnation” but urged calm.
In Seoul, President Moon Jae-In called for new United Nations sanctions to “completely isolate North Korea” and said the South would discuss deploying “the strongest strategic assets of the US military.”
That could be taken as a reference to tactical nuclear weapons, which were withdrawn from South Korea by Washington in 1991.
The US and South Korean military chiefs spoke by telephone and agreed the test was “a provocation that cannot be overlooked,” Seoul’s defense ministry said in a statement.
The chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff, General Jeong Kyeong-Doo and General Joseph Dunford, “agreed to prepare a South Korea-US military counteraction and to put it into action at the earliest date.”
US monitors measured a magnitude 6.3 tremor near the North’s main testing site, which South Korean experts said was 5 to 6 times stronger than that from the 10-kiloton test carried out a year ago.
The tremor was felt in northeastern China, with people in the border city of Yanji saying they fled their homes in their underwear, and in the Russian Pacific city of Vladivostok.
Whatever the final figure for the test’s yield turned out to be, said Jeffrey Lewis of the armscontrolwonk website, it was “a staged thermonuclear weapon” which represents a significant advance.
Chinese monitors said they had detected a second tremor shortly afterwards of magnitude 4.6 that could be due to a “collapse (cave in),” suggesting the rock over the underground blast had given way.
‘Super explosive power’
Pyongyang triggered a new ramping up of tensions in July, when it carried out two successful tests of an ICBM which apparently brought much of the US mainland within range.
Trump has warned Pyongyang that it faces “fire and fury” and that Washington’s weapons are “locked and loaded.”
Analysts believe Pyongyang has been developing weapons capability to give it a stronger hand in any negotiations with the US.
“North Korea will continue with their nuclear weapons program unless the US proposes talks,” Koo Kab-Woo of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies told Agence France-Presse.
Pictures of Kim at the Nuclear Weapons Institute showed the young leader, dressed in a black suit, examining a metal casing with a shape akin to a peanut shell.
The device was a “thermonuclear weapon with super explosive power made by our own efforts and technology,” the Korean Central News Agency cited Kim as saying, and “all components of the H-bomb were 100% domestically made.”
Despite its power there were no radioactive leaks from the test, KCNA said in a later report.
Analysts cautioned that the images had not been verified.
“We don’t know if this thing is full of styrofoam, but yes, it is shaped like it has two devices,” Melissa Hanham of the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in California said on Twitter.
Failure of sanctions
Pyongyang, which says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself, carried out its first atomic test in 2006.
Its 5th detonation, in September last year, caused a magnitude 5.3 quake and according to Seoul had a 10-kiloton yield – still less than the 15-kiloton US device which destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.
The North has been subjected to 7 rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, but always insists it will continue to pursue them. – Rappler.com