North Korea said it had successfully conducted a test of a miniaturized hydrogen nuclear device on Wednesday morning, marking a significant advance in the isolated state’s strike capabilities and raising alarm bells in Japan and South Korea.
The test, the fourth time North Korea has exploded a nuclear device, was ordered by young leader Kim Jong Un, state media said (watch the video clip).
“The first H-bomb test was successfully conducted at 10:00 (2030 ET) on Wednesday,” North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said.
“We’ve now become a nuclear state which also holds a hydrogen bomb,” a North Korean report said, in an announcement that drew cheers from crowds in Pyongyang, according to an Associated Press reporter there.
South Korea said it would take all possible measures, including possible United Nations sanctions, to ensure Pyongyang pays the price after the nuclear test.
“Our government strongly condemns North Korea ignoring repeated warnings from us and the international community and pushing ahead with the fourth nuclear test, which clearly violated the U.N. resolutions,” Cho Tae-yong, a senior security official at the South Korean presidential office said.
The United Nations Security Council will meet Wednesday to discuss the newest test, CNN reported. The test may prompt new measures to isolate and economically punish the country, led by the U.S., which has long failed in its efforts to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the test is a “clear breach” of U.N. Security Council resolutions and “undermines regional and international security.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday’s test was “a threat to our country’s security and it is totally intolerable.”
“While we cannot confirm these claims at this time, we condemn any violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” White House National Security spokesman Ned Price said.
“We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state,” he said in a statement.
France called for “strong reaction from the international community” against North Korea’s highly provocative act.
Italy’s Foreign Ministry said the nuclear test by North Korea would “represent a grave violation of international law and of the pertinent U.N. Security Council resolutions and a serious threat to international and regional peace and security.”
The Australian government “condemns in the strongest possible terms” the test, that country’s foreign ministry said. “Today’s nuclear test confirms North Korea’s status as a rogue state and a continuing threat to international peace.”
China urged North Korea on Wednesday to honor its commitment to de-nuclearization and called on Pyongyang to stop taking any action that could cause a deterioration of the situation on the Korean peninsula.
Human rights groups called for worldwide condemnation of the latest nuclear test of North Korea accused of committing “gross human rights violations” against its people.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said that with North Korean leader Kim’s birthday just two days away, the only gift he “should get from the international community is a one way trip to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where he should be put on trial for crimes against humanity.”
Some analysts questioned whether Wednesday’s test was indeed of a hydrogen device.
“North Korea has made claims about its nuclear and missile programs in the past that simply have not held up to investigation,” said Melissa Hanham, a Senior Research Associate at the California-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum, added: “Given the scale it is hard to believe this is a real hydrogen bomb. They could have tested some middle stage kind (of device) between an A-bomb and H-bomb, but unless they come up with any clear evidence, it is difficult to trust their claim.”
No radiation had been detected from North Korea’s nuclear test on Wednesday at Japanese monitoring posts, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said.