North Korea carried out its most powerful nuclear test to date on Sunday, claiming to have developed an advanced hydrogen bomb that could sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The bomb used in the country’s sixth-ever nuclear test sent tremors across the region that were 10 times more powerful than Pyongyang’s previous test a year ago, Japanese officials said.
While the type of bomb used and its size have not been independently verified, if true, the pariah state is a significant step closer to being able to fire a nuclear warhead to the US mainland, as it has repeatedly threatened it could if provoked.
Pyongyang has ratcheted up its ballistic missile testing this year and engaged in a fiery exchange of threats with US President Donald Trump. It has developed projectiles that it says could reach the US mainland, and some experts agree that’s likely true.
Sunday’s nuclear test is the first since Trump took office, and the President condemned the test in a Tweet on Sunday morning, calling North Korea’s words and actions “hostile and dangerous to the United States.”
“North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”
“South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”
When asked by a reporter Sunday whether he would attack North Korea, Trump responded: “We’ll see.”
8 times the power of Hiroshima bomb
The test came just hours after North Korea released images of leader Kim Jong Un inspecting what it said was a hydrogen bomb ready to be put on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the type of weapon the country would need to use to deliver a nuclear warhead to far-away locations.
Veteran North Korea state news anchor Ri Chun Hee hailed the test as a “perfect success” and the final step in attaining a “state nuclear force.”
The device was more than eight times more powerful than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, according to NORSAR, a Norway-based group that monitors nuclear tests.
Based on the tremors that followed the test, NORSAR estimated it had an explosive yield of 120 kilotons. Hiroshima’s had 15 kilotons.
But South Korean officials gave a more modest estimation, saying that Sunday’s bomb had a yield of 50 kilotons.
Whatever the explosive yield, the device was undoubtedly powerful, and the test offers the first hint that North Korea could be more developed in its nuclear program than previously thought.
The country has for years worked on nuclear miniaturization so that it can create a warhead small and light enough to be fired over long distances.