Thursday, May 30, 2024

North Korea’s H-Bomb claim: A hoax?

North Korea has claimed a successful Hydrogen-Bomb test on Wednesday the veracity of which would be determined before this week is out.

The test was conducted near the location of North Korea’s last test in February 2013; both sides a short distance from the country’ main nuclear facility at Pungyye-ri.  The seismic shock of the two is also similar. According to the European Mediterranean Seismological Center, the epicenter of the detonation was about 2 kilometers underground.

The confirmation could take between 48=72 hours, depending on the presence of particles released by the blast in the winds that CTBTO monitoring stations in Russia and Japan register.

Independent verification is important too. US has Kadena Air Force base in Okinawa, Japan and it would carry out its own air analysis. For the time being though US has acknowledged North Korea’s claims even though its initial analysis “were not consistent with the claim the regime has made a successful hydrogen bomb test.”

Experts such as Jeffrey Lewis, director, East Asian Nonproliferation Program, however, doubt the North Korean claim. As for Lewis, “building a staged thermonuclear weapon—one in which the radiation from a fission primary compresses a secondary stage of thermonuclear fuel—would seem to be a bit of a stretch for the North Koreans.”

Lewis though has little doubt that North Korea is committed to having a nuclear weapon and earning respect among its adversaries.  It is not dissimilar to early days of China’s nuclear capability.

During its early days China kept repeating its commitment to possess intercontinental-range ballistic missiles armed with thermonuclear weapons. A lot of Americans thought China to be too “backward” to have such aspirations. But that’s what China wanted it in the first place—that is to have its’ respect in international comity of nations.

The same is true for North Korea. Over the past five years, North Korea has never missed an opportunity to claim its thermonuclear capability.  Its ambassador in London had recently claimed that North Korea has weapons ten times more powerful than the ones tested. Pyongyang has already claimed that it can deliver nuclear strikes on the US mainland.

The skeptics need to remember that North Korea has a nuclear weapons program for more than 20 years. The program has produced three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013. Its scientists have access to their counterparts in Pakistan.

North Korea doesn’t like being told its impoverished. That its’ leadership and governance is antiquated. That’s why North Korean information warfare never misses an opportunity to claim it’s a technological powerhouse.

Meanwhile the world has joined in unison to condemn the North Korean claim. The South Koreans have termed it a “provocation,” Russia has slammed it for escalating tensions in the Korean peninsula; China wants to do its bid to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and Japan has said threat to its national security “won’t be tolerated.”

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