North Korea announces ‘successful’ test of hydrogen bomb

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North Korea announced Wednesday that it carried a “successful” test of a miniaturized hydrogen nuclear device, marking the country’s fourth nuclear test and an apparent improvement in its nuclear program.

The announcement was made on state-run television at noon local time (10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday), just two hours after seismologists detected a seismic event near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Hamgyong province.

Although details could not be independently verified, the North said in a statement that the test had been carried out “in a safe and perfect manner.” It added that the test, which follows 3 plutonium-fueled tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013, “meant a higher stage of the DPRK’s development of nuclear force.”

The statement from the North blamed the South and the United States for Wednesday’s test, saying North Korea is “a genuine peace-loving state” that makes effort to protect peace on the Korean peninsula. “The DPRK, a responsible nuclear weapons state, will neither be the first to use nuclear weapons nor transfer relevant means and technology under any circumstances as already declared as long as the hostile forces for aggression do not encroach upon its sovereignty,” it said.

Wednesday’s test is certain to provoke international condemnation and prompt a new round of UN sanctions.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, speaking to reporters, said North Korea’s latest test poses a threat to Japan’s security and called it “totally intolerable.” A Japanese official indicated that Japan may consider increasing its sanctions against the North and seek a resolution at the United Nations.

Lassina Zerbo, the executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), also condemned the test. “The announced nuclear test by DPRK, if confirmed, is a grave threat to international peace and security. I strongly urge DPRK to observe the moratorium on nuclear testing and join the 183 States Signatories who have signed the CTBT,” he said.

Since the test in 2013, the North Korean government had repeatedly threatened to carry out a fourth nuclear test, but there had been no high-profile threats in recent months, and there was no clear indication that a nuclear test was imminent.

During his New Year’s address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un blamed the United States for the Korean peninsula becoming “a hotbed” for nuclear war. “The U.S. and South Korean war maniacs are conducting large-scale military exercises aimed at a nuclear war against the DPRK one after another every year,” Kim said in his speech, referring to the North by its official name.

Kim added: “This precipitating a critical situation in the Korean peninsula and throwing serious obstacles in the way of improving inter-Korean relations. Last year’s August emergency showed that even a trifling, incidental conflict between the north and the south may spark a war and escalate into an all-out war.”

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