North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test Sunday that caused tremors throughout South Korea and China, a move President Trump called “hostile and dangerous to the United States.” Pyongang said its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date featured a hydrogen bomb designed to fit on its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The underground explosion registered as a 6.3 earthquake by the U.S. geological survey, a magnitude that experts say puts Pyongang’s capabilities well ahead of schedule. But little is known about the bomb, which was detonated at its underground Punggye-ri test site, and U.S. officials stressed more information was needed to verify North Korea’s claims that it had achieved two-stage thermonuclear bomb capabilities.
South Korea’s meteorological agency said the blast as “five to six” times larger than its last nuclear test a year ago. Japanese officials said the blast was 10 times that of North Korea’s test a year ago. NORSAR, a Norway-based group that monitors nuclear tests estimated the blast at 120 kilotons of TNT. The hydrogen bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945 had the explosive power of 15 kilotons of TNT.
Either way, the last explosion, which the International Atomic Energy Agency called “an extremely regrettable act” was a significant, and dramatic escalation in regional tensions that have scarcely been higher.
The test elicited a outraged international response, with leaders from the U.K., France, Russia, China, Japan and others issuing condemnations over the test, which occurred just after noon local time.
President Trump criticized both China and U.S. ally South Korea for their handling of the situation. “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success,” he said. “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”