North Korea Rattles Nerves And Markets With Claim It Detonated A Hydrogen Bomb

North Korea claims it successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb drew condemnation from both Russia and the U.S. on Wednesday, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the action “totally unacceptable.”

North Korea has conducted three other nuclear tests since 2006. However, South Korean analysts expressed doubt in North Korea’s pronouncement based on the amount of energy released from the explosion.

Lee Cheol-woo, a member of the intelligence committee of the South Korean National Assembly, told The New York Times that their National Intelligence Service estimated that the explosion only yielded the equivalent to six kilotons of TNT, and said the detonation of a hydrogen bomb would have yielded “hundred of kilotons or, even if it is a failed test, tens of kilotons.”

Given Pyongyang’s penchant for secrecy, the skepticism from Seoul is not necessarily unwarranted. In December, Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, wrote that North Korea’s assertions related to its nuclear capacity warrant some questioning on the technological front.

“Thermonuclear weapons are tricky; making one work requires a bit of test experience. While the North Koreans finally conducted an unambiguously successful nuclear test in 2013, the 2006 and 2009 tests were less so,” he argued.

If Pyongyang’s claims of a successful testing of a thermonuclear weapon, it would represent a dangerous new phase in weapons development, says Jeremy Page of the Wall Street Journal.

The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet today to discuss North Korea’s claims and its response, but few believe it will result in anything stronger than additional sanctions.

“If indeed it was a nuclear test, whether H-bomb or A-bomb, we can expect another round of largely symbolic sanctions against North Korea, plus public condemnation from China,” Denny Roy, an expert on Northeast Asia political and security issues at the East-West Center in Honolulu, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Regardless of whether the test was successful or merely propaganda, it was enough to rile the markets


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