Justin McCurry in Tokyo — Sept 3, 2017
North Korea says it has tested a powerful hydrogen bomb that can be loaded on to an intercontinental ballistic, in a move that is expected to ratchet up the pressure on Donald Trump to defuse the growing nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.
In an announcement carried on state TV, North Korea said the test, its sixth since 2006, had been a “complete success” and involved a “two-stage thermonuclear weapon” with “unprecedented” strength.
Hours earlier the regime released footage of what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb that would be loaded on to a new intercontinental ballistic missile.
The TV announcement – accompanied by patriotic music and images of North Korean scenery and military hardware – said the test had been ordered by the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
The explosion was heralded by a magnitude 6.3 magnitude earthquake felt in Yanji, China, about 10km from North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the country’s north-east.
South Korea’s meteorological administration estimated the blast yield at between 50 to 60 kilotons, or five to six times stronger than North Korea’s fifth test in September last year.
Japan’s meteorological agency said the shockwaves were at least 10 times as powerful as the last time Pyongyang exploded an atomic bomb a year ago. The previous nuclear blast in North Korea is estimated by experts to have been around 10 kilotons.
Sunday’s test – the first since Trump took office in January – offers more evidence that North Korea is moving perilously close to developing a nuclear warhead capable of being fitted on to an intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] that can strike the US mainland.
Since it conducted its first nuclear test just over a decade ago, the regime has strived to refine the bombs’ design and reliability, as well as increasing their yield.
As the US and countries in the region analysed data resulting from the quake, Japan’s government was the first to state publicly that it was confident the shockwaves came from an underground nuclear explosion in North Korea.
The US Geological Survey and China’s Earthquake Administration said they had detected a suspected explosion that caused a 6.3 magnitude earthquake.
The USGS said the tremor was located 24km north-east of Sungjibaegam in North Hamgyeong province. “It’s an explosion rather than an earthquake,” said Jana Pursley, a USGS geophysicist.
The Chinese earthquake administration said in a statement on its website that the shock, which occurred around 11.30am local time, was recorded at a depth of zero metres.