Yeah, so a funny thing happened right around the time I was trying to put the blog away last night. First, a 5.1 seismic event was detected near North Korea’s usual nuclear testing site, which Pyongyang quickly confirmed was a nuclear test. In fact, they announced that North Korea had just tested its first hydrogen (thermonuclear/fusion) weapon, a statement that, if true, would represent a significant upgrade in their nuclear capabilities. And, in typical North Korean fashion, they made the announcement in the most hilarious language possible:
DPRK Proves Successful in H-bomb Test
Pyongyang, January 6 (KCNA) — The DPRK government issued the following statement Wednesday:
There took place a world startling event to be specially recorded in the national history spanning 5,000 years in the exciting period when all service personnel and people of the DPRK are making a giant stride, performing eye-catching miracles and exploits day by day after turning out as one in the all-out charge to bring earlier the final victory of the revolutionary cause of Juche, true to the militant appeal of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).
The first H-bomb test was successfully conducted in the DPRK at 10:00 on Wednesday, Juche 105 (2016), pursuant to the strategic determination of the WPK.
Through the test conducted with indigenous wisdom, technology and efforts the DPRK fully proved that the technological specifications of the newly developed H-bomb for the purpose of test were accurate and scientifically verified the power of smaller H-bomb.
It was confirmed that the H-bomb test conducted in a safe and perfect manner had no adverse impact on the ecological environment.
The test means a higher stage of the DPRK’s development of nuclear force.
By succeeding in the H-bomb test in the most perfect manner to be specially recorded in history the DPRK proudly joined the advanced ranks of nuclear weapons states possessed of even H-bomb and the Korean people came to demonstrate the spirit of the dignified nation equipped with the most powerful nuclear deterrent.
This test is a measure for self-defence the DPRK has taken to firmly protect the sovereignty of the country and the vital right of the nation from the ever-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the U.S.-led hostile forces and to reliably safeguard the peace on the Korean Peninsula and regional security.
Since the appearance of the word hostility in the world there has been no precedent of such deep-rooted, harsh and persistent policy as the hostile policy the U.S. has pursued towards the DPRK.
The DPRK’s access to H-bomb of justice, standing against the U.S., the chieftain of aggression watching for a chance for attack on it with huge nukes of various types, is the legitimate right of a sovereign state for self-defense and a very just step no one can slander.
Genuine peace and security cannot be achieved through humiliating solicitation or compromise at the negotiating table.
The present-day grim reality clearly proves once again the immutable truth that one’s destiny should be defended by one’s own efforts.
Nothing is more foolish than dropping a hunting gun before herds of ferocious wolves…
“…blasting across the alkali flats in a jet-powered, monkey-navigated…and it goes on like this.” Seriously, though, that was maybe half of the full statement.
H-Bomb of Justice, though, that’s cool. Nice job everybody, very juchey, juches all around.
So, hey, North Korea with a hydrogen bomb isn’t great news. I mean, it’s not catastrophic–North Korea has had a fission bomb since 2006, and since then nobody has died of a North Korean nuclear attack. But nuclear proliferation is bad in and of itself, and it’s especially bad when the result is highly destructive weapons in the hands of erratic pariah states led by unstable and ultra-secretive regimes. Plus, we know that North Korea has provided technical assistance on weapons programs to countries like Iran and Syria, so Pyongyang’s potential to do bad things isn’t limited to direct action.
The thing is, though, did they actually test a hydrogen bomb? Nuclear experts seem to have a lot of questions:
“I’m pretty skeptical,” said Melissa Hanham, senior researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey, California. “The seismic data indicates it would be very small for a hydrogen test.
“It seems just too soon to have this big technical achievement,” she said. “But North Korea has always defied expectations.”
While also noting the quake was likely too small for an H-bomb test, Jaiki Lee, a professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul’s Hanyang University, said the North could have experimented with a “boosted” hybrid bomb that uses some nuclear fusion fuel along with more conventional uranium or plutonium fuel.
Joel Wit, founder of the North Korea-focused 38 North website, said a boosted bomb “is the most likely option,” while adding that he isn’t surprised that North Korea has shifted focus to hydrogen weaponry.
Josh Earnest is also on my TV right now saying that the US government isn’t changing its estimates of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities based on whatever happened last night. So that’s something. But, and I am certainly no expert, it seems to me that even a successful boosted fission test would represent progress towards the eventual development of a full-fledged fusion weapon. So while this test may not have produced the H-Bomb of Justice, it could be a step in that direction.
Whatever Pyongyang tested, it seems clear they tested something nuclear-related (their fourth nuclear test overall), so there should be repercussions even if their h-bomb claims are bogus. The UN Security Council just held an “emergency meeting” to discuss the test, and it looks to be preparing new sanctions against North Korea. The problem is, what’s left to sanction? North Korea is already the most isolated country on the face of the planet; what else can anybody do to them at this point? The only country that seems capable of reining Pyongyang in is China, and while they’ve expressed their disapproval of this most recent test, they’ve never shown a willingness to really take punitive action against their client in the past. Perversely, this test might actually result in more humanitarian aid from South Korea and the US–past North Korean provocations have been followed by promises to halt their nuclear program in exchange for aid–but on the other hand this could just be what it is, a nuclear test by a country with an active nuclear weapons program, led by a guy with such a tenuous hold on power that he needs to keep puffing his chest out, lest he find himself being sentenced to death by anti-aircraft fire one of these days.
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