Kim Jong-un has carried out another nuclear test in North Korea, the fifth one that has been conducted by the secretive state since a 2006 ban on nuclear testing by the United Nations.
Shortly thereafter, a 5.3 magnitude earthquake was detected near the site in the north-east of the country near the underground test sit at Punggye-Ri. It would be quite a stretch of the imagination to believe that this was merely coincidental.
South Korea believe it was the largest missile tested so far and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye called the event “an act of “self-destruction” showing the “maniacal recklessness” of leader Kim Jong-un.”
The United Nations, the West, Japan, and China all condemned the test.
South Korean military experts estimated the bomb to be around 10 kilotonnes but other experts say that indications suggest 20 kilotons or higher. For reference, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons. (source)
Pyongyang said the success of the test – which drew immediate international condemnation – meant it could produce “at will a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power”. (source)
KCNA the North Korean official news agency broadcast a TV bulletin that claimed a major breakthrough in the States missile and nuclear technology. They stated the test had:
“…finally examined and confirmed the structure and specific features of movement of a nuclear warhead that has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets.
The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable [North Korea] to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power with a firm hold on the production of various fissile materials and technology for their use. This has definitely put on a higher level [the North’s] technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.” (Source)
So, they are claiming that they now have the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile.
Let’s hope that this is once again saber-rattling. The thought of a mentally deranged despot having a military with such weaponry at its disposal is worrying, to say the least. Kim Jong-un has been more deliberately provocative than ever recently. Perhaps it’s because he is assuring himself he can back it up.
President Obama was aboard Air Force One returning from Laos when he was told about the test. He said it would be met with “serious consequences” according to Reuters.
This is the second nuclear test North Korea has conducted in the past eight months and there will be concerns that they are inching towards their goal of producing a nuclear-armed missile that will have the capability to strike South Korea or Japan, though it seems that their main goal is to be able to strike the US mainland.
Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies said the highest estimates of seismic magnitude suggested this was the most powerful nuclear test conducted by North Korea so far.
He said the seismic magnitude and surface level indicated a blast with a 20- to 30-kilotonne yield. Such a yield would make this test larger than the nuclear bomb dropped by the United States on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in World War Two and potentially bigger than that dropped on Nagasaki soon after.
“That’s the largest DPRK test to date, 20-30kt, at least. Not a happy day,” Lewis told Reuters.