SEOUL—North Korea said Wednesday that it successfully staged its first test of a more powerful form of a nuclear weapon, expanding the U.S.’s foreign-policy challenges and highlighting the limits of China’s ability to rein in its volatile ally.
An announcer on North Korean state television said in a midday broadcast that scientists had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb at around 10 a.m. local time.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that a magnitude 5.1 earthquake was detected at that time near North Korea’s nuclear test site in the northeast of the country.
Experts have said it was unclear whether North Korea had developed the ability to build a hydrogen bomb. The magnitude of the latest explosion was the same as a 2013 test of an atomic bomb.
U.S. officials said they were working to confirm North Korea’s claim. In the past, U.S. officials have questioned North Korea’s claims to technological breakthroughs.
At the same time, the Pentagon last year said it has determined that Pyongyang is close to or already capable of miniaturizing nuclear warheads so they can be mounted on missiles and launched across the globe.
Confirmation that Pyongyang has conducted a nuclear test of any kind is likely to accelerate U.S. responses across a variety of fronts, and add to pressure on the Obama administration to step up action on sanctions and missile defense.
North Korea has staged three test detonations of atomic bombs; the latest was in 2013. A hydrogen bomb is more powerful and uses nuclear fusion to trigger an uncontrolled chain reaction.
In a statement from its state media following the test, North Korea said its scientists had verified “the power of a smaller H-bomb.”
South Korea denounced the test as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban the North’s nuclear weapons development.
South Korea “strongly condemns North Korea for going ahead with a fourth nuclear test in a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Cho Tae-yong, deputy chief of the presidential office of national security, said in a statement.
He added that Seoul will work with the U.S. and other nations on appropriate responses, including pursuing additional U.N. sanctions against North Korea.
For China, this latest test will strain relations with Pyongyang and increase international pressure to participate more in efforts to control it through means such as sanctions, said Korea expert Cai Jian, of Fudan University in Shanghai.
“China would have to not only worry about the stability in its border areas but also about if the U.S. and Japan would use chances like this as excuses to deploy more military facilities in the area,” he added.
U.S. officials say they have repeatedly tried to engage North Korea in dialogue about its nuclear program in recent months, but Pyongyang hasn’t responded to their advances.
John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, said the decision to go ahead with a test was likely driven by technical needs to continue to test nuclear devices.
While the nature of the latest test remained unclear, it highlighted the commitment of North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, to continue confronting its neighbors despite recent hopes of a shift in its emphasis on dialogue.
In a speech on New Year’s Day, Mr. Kim said he remained committed to a military confrontation with other nations, even as he called for talks with South Korea. Following an armed standoff in August, the two Koreas agreed to hold high-level dialogue but the talks have stalled due to differing priorities held by each side.
1/6/16 or 6/1/16…. too weird of a date for N. Korea to choose wouldn’t you say?
Of course that date was picked by North Korea to be a backwards upside-down 911 of sorts. Of all the days to choose to do your Hydrogen bomb nuclear “test”… this cannot be an accidental date choice.
I don’t have to tell anyone that this man made earthquake is not a good development for multiple reasons.
With the other seismic activity building in the region around Japan to the East, and India to the South (India just hit by a near M7.0 one day ago)… this large man made seismic event caused by the underground hydrogen bomb test is sheer foolishness when it comes to playing around with the seismic safety of the whole West Pacific.
We should see seismic results from this underground blast for weeks to come (if the story of a hydrogen blast is true). Even if it was conventional explosives, we would expect to see aftershocks.
This is only a recent development, thus time will tell the full tale on the ramifications of this underground detonation.
Be on watch for larger earthquake activity globally due to the concentrated electron cascade , plasma energy, and electrical discharge which goes to the Earth’s core following these underground detonations.