SEOUL (Web Desk) – North Korea says it has successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear bomb, a more powerful weapon than an atomic bomb, claiming a significant advance in its strike capability and setting off alarm bells in Japan and South Korea.
The test, the fourth time the isolated state has exploded a nuclear device, was ordered by young leader Kim Jong Un and successfully conducted at 10:00 a.m. local time.
“Let the world look up to the strong, self-reliant nuclear-armed state,” Kim wrote in what North Korean state TV displayed as a handwritten note.
South Korean intelligence officials and several analysts questioned whether Wednesday’s explosion was indeed a full-fledged test of a hydrogen device. But the reported nuclear test drew condemnation abroad, including from China and Russia, North Korea’s two main allies.
China, which said it did not have advance knowledge of a test, expressed “resolute opposition” and said it would lodge a protest with Pyongyang.
While a fourth nuclear test had been long expected, the claim that it was a hydrogen device, much more powerful than an atomic bomb, came as a surprise, as did the timing. It ensures that North Korea will be a key topic during the U.S. presidential campaign.
North Korea has long coveted diplomatic recognition from Washington but sees its nuclear deterrent as crucial to ensuring the survival of its third-generation dictatorship.
“With Iran being off the table, the North Koreans have placed themselves at the top of the foreign policy agenda as far as nation-states who present a threat to the U.S.”, said Michael Madden, an expert on the country’s secretive leadership. The device had a yield of about 6 kilotones, according to the office of a South Korean lawmaker on the parliamentary intelligence committee – roughly the same size as the North’s last test, which was equivalent to 6-7 kilotones of TNT.