Posted : 2013-02-04 17:18
Updated : 2013-02-04 17:18

North Korea may detonate H-bomb

By Kang Seung-woo, Chung Min-uck

North Korea may try to detonate a hydrogen bomb, a Defense Ministry official said Monday.

"Pyongyang just might make such an attempt," he said on condition of anonymity. "Whether it is capable of building a workable hydrogen bomb is another matter."

The colloquially named hydrogen bomb, or H-bomb is a thermonuclear weapon that uses the energy generated by a fission bomb to initiate nuclear fusion, using hydrogen as a trigger, and is far more sophisticated than atomic bombs based purely on fission.

The ministry's hint comes at a time when it is strongly thought that the North is weeks, if not days, away from a nuclear test.

If the North goes ahead, it would be its third nuclear test after ones in 2006 and 2009 that resulted in U.N. sanctions.

Meanwhile, President-elect Park Geun-hye called on North Korea to immediately drop its nuclear test plans.

"I once again urge North Korea to halt this nuclear test plan immediately," Park said in remarks made at the start of a security briefing from her transition team. "North Korea should understand it has nothing to gain from this provocation and should know that it will instead face a strong response from the international community."

On top of diplomatic pressure through the dispatch of a senior diplomat to China, South Korea and the United States are staging a show of force, starting a three-day joint naval drill, Monday.

"The exercise involves naval maneuvers, submarine detection, live-fire drills and anti-ballistic missile drills," an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The U.S. side has deployed the USS San Francisco, a 6,800-ton nuclear submarine, and the 9,800-ton Aegis cruiser Shilo, both of which can carry long-range cruise missiles, while the South Korean Navy has mobilized 10 vessels, including one 7,600-ton Aegis destroyer, a frigate and its newest Type-214 submarines, as well as anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft and helicopters.

A high-ranking defense ministry official said, "During the 44th ROK-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) last October defense ministers of the two nations decided to establish tailored strategy against the North's nuclear threat" and hinted at adopting a "preemptive strike" measure if Pyongyang conducts a nuclear test.

After the U.N. Security Council's approval last month of a resolution to strengthen sanctions against Pyongyang for its long-range rocket launch on Dec. 12, the North threatened to conduct the nuclear test.

The latest signs were detected Friday with the country covering the entrance to the western tunnel of its test site in Punggye-ri in an apparent move to avoid satellite monitoring of the detonation.

North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test complex is an ideal place to conduct underground atomic detonations due to its geological features and isolated location, according to South Korean observers.

Military and government officials said Pyongyang selected the region and started constructing the site most likely over two decades ago, although the exact date is not known. From the 1990s onward, the South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies have been closely observing the site, which was used by the Stalinist state for its first and second nuclear tests North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that its leader Kim Jong-un had made an "important decision" regarding his country's security and sovereignty at a Central Military Commission meeting.

In addition, given that its first two tests were carried out on U.S. national holidays _ Columbus Day and Memorial Day. .

There are two U.S. national events in February _ President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech on Feb. 12 and President Day on Feb. 18.

With the North ramping up its test threats, neighboring countries are making efforts to force Pyongyang to scrap its plan.

Lim Sung-nam, South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, met his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, and discussed measures to prevent North Korea from conducting further provocations.

China, the North's closest ally and biggest trading partner, itself has put pressure on Pyongyang not to go ahead, summoning North Korean ambassador Ji Jae-ryong on multiple occasions since its declaration of a possible test.

Meanwhile, Yonhap quoted a Japanese report that North Korea was exhibiting what is presumed to be a long-range rocket of the type launched in December, and explicitly calling it a ballistic missile, despite its claims to the outside world that the Unha-3 was part of its peaceful space development program.

The report by Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun quoted North Korean sources as saying that the rocket was displayed under the name "Hwasong-13" among exhibitions of the country's missile lineup in an exhibition hall in Pyongyang. The Hwasong line also includes shorter-range Scud missiles, which the country has produced since the 1980s.

관련 한글 기사

북한, 수소폭탄 실험 가능성 있어

북한이 수소폭탄을 실험할 수도 있다고 국방부의 한 관리가 월요일 말했다.

“북한이 이런 시도를 할 가능성이 높다”고 그는 익명을 전제로 말했다. “북한이 실제적인 수소폭탄을 만들 능력이 있느냐는 별개의 문제”라고 그는 덧붙였다.

수소폭탄, 혹은 H-폭탄이라고 불리는 이 무기는 수소를 매개체로 사용해 핵폭발을 일으키는 무기를 가리키다. 일반적인 원자폭탄이나 핵폭탄보다 훨씬 고도화된 무기다.

국방부의 이런 발언은 북한이 핵실험을 수 주, 혹은 수 일 내에 실시할 것이라는 강한 관측 가운데 나온 것이다.

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