Posted : 2016-01-06 17:11
Updated : 2016-01-07 13:59

N. Korea claims successful H-bomb test

People in Seoul Station watch a TV news broadcast showing an announcement made on television in North Korea that the regime there conducted a nuclear test, Wednesday. The North said it tested a hydrogen bomb, a defiant and surprising move that, if confirmed, will put Pyongyang significantly closer to upgrading its still-limited nuclear arsenal. The script reads "(North Korea) has a become hydrogen bomb-holding country." / AP-Yonhap

Fourth nuclear test draws international condemnation

By Jun Ji-hye

North Korea announced Wednesday that it conducted a successful hydrogen bomb test, in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

However, the South Korean military raised doubts over the North's claims, saying that the explosive power estimated to have been used at the test site was too small to confirm that an H-bomb was detonated. An H-bomb is approximately 100 to 1,000 times more destructive than an atomic bomb.

The nuclear test may lead to harsher measures from the international community against Pyongyang, which is already under U.N. sanctions for nuclear tests conducted in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

South Korea joined the international community in condemning the North and vowed to make it pay the price, saying it will ask for further sanctions against Pyongyang.

The North's announcement came a few hours after seismic activity was detected close to the isolated state's nuclear test site in Punggye-ri by seismologists around the world.

Seoul and Washington as well as other neighboring countries including China and Japan condemned the North's provocative act for posing a serious threat to regional security and for violating U.N. resolutions.

President Park Geun-hye urgently convened a meeting of the National Security Council at Cheong Wa Dae to discuss countermeasures necessary to counter the North's provocation. She said, "The North should pay the price, and U.N. Security Council sanctions along with a firm response from allies are necessary."

The South Korean military raised its military alert status in close cooperation with the United States Forces Korea in preparation for further possible provocations from the repressive state.

In its "special" announcement aired on the North's state-run Korean Central Television, Pyongyang stated that it conducted an H-bomb test at 10:00 a.m. (Pyongyang Time).

"The test means a higher stage in the development of our nuclear force," the North said. "This test proved that our technologies and data for the H-bomb were accurate."

Pyongyang also said in a statement delivered in English that by successfully conducting the H-bomb test, North Korea "joined the advanced ranks of nuclear weapons states possessed of even H-bomb."

However, the South's Ministry of National Defense, said it is unlikely that the North actually detonated an H-bomb as claimed by Pyongyang.

"The explosive power of H-bombs tested by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union in the past was estimated at some 20 to 50 megatons," said a military official on condition of anonymity. "The explosive power of the North's latest test is estimated at only about 6 kilotons. So it is hard to believe that an H-bomb was detonated this time."

The National Intelligence Service also said there is a possibility that it was not an H-bomb test considering the magnitude of the seismic activity.

South Korean authorities put more weight on the possibility that the North may have tested a "boosted fission weapon."

Such a bomb, which is said to be two to five times more destructive than a regular atomic bomb, is categorized as a "1.5-generation" nuclear device. Such a bomb is the middle stage in development toward production of an H-bomb, regarded as a second-generation nuclear weapon.

The White House also said it cannot confirm the North's claims of conducting a successful H-bomb test, but condemns any violation of U.N. resolutions. It also said that the U.S. will not accept the North as a nuclear state.

China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying expressed Beijing's opposition to the North's latest nuclear test.

Earlier in the day, the European Mediterranean Seismological Center detected a 5.1 magnitude seismic reading in the North, while China's state-run seismic center registered 4.9 and the Korea Meteorological Administration 4.8 on the Richter scale.

When the isolated state conducted its first test in October 2006, a 3.6 magnitude reading was detected, while the second in May 2009 registered at 4.5 on the scale. A seismic event with a magnitude of 4.9 was detected in the third test in February in 2013.

Follow Jun Ji-hye on Twitter @TheKopJihye

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