Seoul, South Korea: North Korea has developed a hydrogen bomb which can be loaded into the country’s new intercontinental ballistic missile, the official Korean Central News Agency claimed Sunday.
Questions remain over whether nuclear-armed Pyongyang has successfully miniaturised its weapons, and whether it has a working H-bomb, but KCNA said that leader Kim Jong-Un had inspected such a device at the Nuclear Weapons Institute.
It was a “thermonuclear weapon with super explosive power made by our own efforts and technology”, KCNA cited Kim him as saying, and “all components of the H-bomb were 100 percent domestically made”.
Pictures showed Kim in black suit examining a metal casing with two bulges.
North Korea just conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date. pic.twitter.com/8M277insVF
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) September 3, 2017
North Korea triggered a new escalation of tensions in July when it carried out two successful tests of an ICBM, the Hwasong-14, which apparently brought much of the US mainland within range.
After its fourth nuclear test, in January 2016, it claimed that the device was a miniaturised H-bomb, which has the potential to be far more powerful than other nuclear devices.
But scientists said the six-kiloton yield achieved then was far too low for a thermonuclear device.
When it carried out its fifth test, in September 2016, it did not say it was a hydrogen bomb.
The North had “further upgraded its technical performance at a higher ultra-modern level on the basis of precious successes made in the first H-bomb test”, KCNA said, adding that Kim “set forth tasks to be fulfilled in the research into nukes”.
Actually mounting a warhead onto a missile would amount to a significant escalation on the North’s part, as it would create a risk that it was preparing an attack.
What will the North do next?
Analysts are divided on whether Sunday’s test could lead to more North Korean provocations, or become an opening for dialogue.
While North Korea has tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that apparently brings much of the US mainland into range, questions remain about reliability and whether it has mastered the re-entry technology to bring a warhead back through the Earth’s atmosphere.
It also has yet to show proof of its claims of miniaturisation.
Pyongyang could launch another ICBM in the next few months, Cha said.
It could also begin actual deployment of its new arsenal, said Yoo Ho-Yeol of the Korea University, while seeking an opening for diplomacy with the Trump administration.
The deployment will be carried out “at the most propitious moment to maximise their diplomatic impact,” Yoo told AFP.
In any case, Pyongyang will seek recognition from the international community as a nuclear state, said Go Myong-Hyun at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies.
With inputs from AFP