North Korea claims that it tested a hydrogen bomb on Sunday, reports Reuters. If true, it represents a major escalation in the region, and highlights the growing sophistication of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
The country’s state-run media announced the test of the “two stage thermonuclear weapon,” saying that it was a “complete success,” and has gone on to report that the bomb can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile. Officials with the United States Geologic Service detected a magnitude 6.3 earthquake from North Korea’s Pyunggye-ri nuclear test site, which could indicate that such a test has taken place, although additional testing will be required to verify the country’s claims.
Beginning in 2006, the country has conducted six underground nuclear tests, the latest taking place in September 2016. While the first five tests ranged from .7 to 25 kiloton blasts, South Korean authorities estimate that this latest test was up to ten times the size of the last test at an estimated 100 kilotons.
Up to this point, North Korea has tested fission nuclear bombs, in which a chain reaction is triggered when radioactive material is compressed, either with a bullet or an implosion. A thermonuclear bomb (also known as a hydrogen bomb) is a more advanced and powerful design, where a fission bomb ignites a second stage of fissionable material to induce a fusion reaction, resulting in a much larger explosion.
The test comes after a series of provocative missile launches and threats to retaliate against attacks from North Korea this summer, which included tests of its first ICBMs capable of striking the United States. Last month, analysts with the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that North Korea has successfully miniaturized its warheads, which would be a key step in arming those ICBMs with nuclear weapons.
In a series of Tweets this morning, President Donald Trump said that North Korea has become a major threat, and that appeasement will not work.
This is the first time the country has conducted such a test since the Trump Administration took office in January, and the move will likely be seen as a further political test in the region. China has condemned the attack, while South Korea’s National Security Council has convened an emergency meeting to discuss the incident.
President Trump later tweeted that he will be meeting with US military leaders, and is considering a trade embargo that would stop trade to any country that does business with North Korea.
Update September 3, 2017, 12:45PM: Included additional tweet from Trump regarding a trade embargo.