(From the National Interest)
By Bruce Klingner
Prior to the announcement, sensors had detected a 5.1-magnitude seismic event at the same approximate location of North Korea’s 2013 nuclear test. Nuclear experts are continuing to analyze the data, but preliminary assessments are that North Korea did conduct its fourth nuclear test.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un asserted last month that his country had built a hydrogen nuclear bomb to “defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation.” Kim’s initial assertion about hydrogen bombs was met with expert skepticism, and it is more likely that Pyongyang has achieved a boosted fission rather than a fusion bomb. Such a weapon would be larger than its first three nuclear tests (and the 1945 U.S. atomic weapons) but not of the magnitude from a hydrogen fusion bomb.
If confirmed, North Korea’s fourth nuclear test is a dangerous development. Coupled with ongoing development of several different missile systems, North Korea poses an increasing and direct threat to the United States, South Korea, and Japan.
Experts estimate that Pyongyang currently has 10-16 nuclear weapons with potentially as many as 50-100 by 2020. North Korea has likely already achieved warhead miniaturization, the ability to place nuclear weapons on its medium-range missiles, and a preliminary ability to reach the continental United States with a missile. Read more