N. Korea's hydrogen bomb test claim draws condemnation, scepticism

People in Pyongyang, North Korea, watching a broadcast yesterday of the government's announcement that it had successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen bomb. If North Korea’s claim is true, its new capability could pose a threat to the US and its
People in Pyongyang, North Korea, watching a broadcast yesterday of the government's announcement that it had successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen bomb. If North Korea’s claim is true, its new capability could pose a threat to the US and its allies Japan and South Korea.PHOTO: REUTERS

Nuclear-ambitious North Korea said it successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen bomb yesterday, with its claim drawing swift international condemnation as well as scepticism about its nuclear capability.

The test - the fourth since the last one in 2013 - was ordered by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"Let the world look up to the strong, self-reliant, nuclear-armed state," he said in a handwritten note shown on state television.

Foreign governments near and far condemned the test, which also drew strong words from China and Russia, North Korea's main allies. Pyongyang did not notify Beijing, Moscow and Washington about the test beforehand.

China said it was "firmly opposed" to the test, while Russia called it "a flagrant violation" of international law. The United States vowed to "respond appropriately" to "any and all provocations".

US government sources quoted later by the Reuters news agency said the location and nature of seismic activity reported in North Korea were consistent with previous nuclear tests conducted there.

US agencies were trying to verify the exact nature of the event and, if it was a nuclear test, what kind of device was involved, they added.

The United Nations Security Council was due to hold an emergency session late last night.

South Korean President Park Geun Hye warned Pyongyang that it would pay a price for what she said was "a grave provocation".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it "a serious threat".

The Singapore Government expressed its grave concern about the "dangerous and provocative act", and said it would make its views known through North Korea's ambassador in Singapore.

Japan deployed planes to collect possible radioactive material in the air for tests yesterday.

South Korean intelligence officials and some international experts, however, were sceptical whether the North Koreans did explode a hydrogen device, which is much more powerful than an atomic bomb. Yesterday's bomb had a yield of only 6 kilotonnes.

But if Pyongyang was successful in miniaturising the device, which would allow it to be put on a missile, its new capability could pose a threat to the US and its allies Japan and South Korea.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2016, with the headline 'N. Korea's hydrogen bomb test claim draws condemnation, scepticism'. Print Edition | Subscribe