The North Korean leader has said the country now has a hydrogen bomb, according to the N. Korean central news agency, and is capable of using it along with nuclear warheads to defend its sovereignty.
“We managed to become a great nuclear power capable of defending the independence and national dignity of our homeland by mighty nuclear and hydrogen strikes,” N. Korean leader Kim Jong-un was cited by the Korean central news agency as saying. He also said North Korea “has to continue with actively developing its military industry.”
The statement came as Kim Jong Un was on a tour inspecting an upgraded arms plant in Pyongyang on Thursday, according to TASS quoting the N. Korean central news agency.
So far it has not been confirmed that the country has in fact designed and created a hydrogen bomb.
However, the South Korean intelligence community and experts say North Korea is unlikely to have enough scientific know-how to design an H-bomb.
“We don’t have any information that North Korea has developed an H-bomb,” an intelligence official from South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) told Yonhap news agency. “We do not believe that North Korea, which has not succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear bombs, has the technology to produce an H-bomb.”
“It’s hard to regard North Korea as possessing an H-bomb. I think it seems to be developing it,” research fellow at Seoul-based Science and Technology Policy Institute Lee Chun-geun was quoted as saying by Yonhap.
On February 10, 2005 N. Korea declared it had created nuclear weapons. The announcement was widely condemned by the international community. The country has since conducted underground nuclear tests three times, in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
The three nuclear tests are said to be critical for N. Korea’s strategic arms program. The first known underground nuclear test was conducted in 2006 at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site in the northeast of the country. It was recorded by seismic stations in Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and Australia. According to rough estimates, a nuclear device of 5 to 10 kilotons of TNT was exploded.
The second and third tests were conducted in May 2009 and January 2013 respectively, causing international condemnation and unilateral sanctions by the US for violating the non-proliferation regime. The estimated power of the devices tested was 10 to 20 kilotons of TNT each.
In 2013, the UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions against North Korea for its latest nuclear test, which came hours after Pyongyang threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the US and South Korea in March 2013. The sanctions involve penalties on the country’s banking, travel and trade.
A hydrogen bomb is a nuclear weapon of mass destruction that uses energy from a primary nuclear blast to ignite a secondary nuclear fusion, and is by far the most powerful weapon on earth. The first country to build an H-bomb was the Soviet Union, whose AN602 hydrogen bomb (often referred to as the “Tzar Bomb”) was tested in 1961.
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