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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, February 20, 2018

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North Korea’s latest nuclear test could pack 80 percent explosive power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima

Second nuclear test of the year

Share on Facebook September 9, 2016, Reporter : Big News Network, Reader : 432

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PYONGYANG, North Korea - With its second nuclear test of the year, the fifth overall and the biggest one ever - North Korea has yet again become the object of the world’s fear and dislike. > Big News Network

The country is said to have carried out a ‘higher level’ nuclear warhead test explosion. 

Being Pyongyang’s fifth atomic test since 2006 and second one in eight months, the test is reportedly going to allow North Korea to finally build an array of stronger, smaller and lighter nuclear weapons “at will.”

The test was first reported by South Korea, after it noted unusual seismic activity near the North's northeastern nuclear test site. 

Pyongyang then released a statement on its state-run media, claiming that a test had "finally examined and confirmed the structure and specific features of movement of (a) nuclear warhead that has been standardised to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets."

The North further stated, “The standardisation of the nuclear warhead will enable (North Korea) to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power. This has definitely put on a higher level (the North's) technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.”

The most shocking fact of all was a statement by South Korea's weather agency that said “the explosive yield of the North Korean blast would have been 10 to 12 kilotons, or 70 to 80 percent of the force of the 15-kiloton atomic bomb the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945.”

The fourth test conducted by North Korea in January this year was an estimated six kilotons.

North Korea has however argued that there was no radioactive material leaked.

North Korean nuclear tests have been followed by earthquakes and the recent test produced a 5.0 magnitude earthquake on Friday - which, according to South Korea's weather agency was the largest of the four past quakes associated with North’s nuclear tests. 

Local reports pointed out that a 5.3 magnitude tremor was detected near the Punggye-ri underground nuclear site.

Reacting angrily almost instantaneously, the South Korean President Park Geun-hye said that detonation is estimated to be North's biggest-ever explosive yield. She said it is an act of “fanatic recklessness of the Kim Jong Un government as it clings to nuclear development."

After North Korea announced that it was capable of mounting nuclear warheads on "strategic ballistic rockets,” it said that it would further strengthen its nuclear strike force, through multi-tiered measures, in response to America’s policy which it believes "threatens sovereignty and the right to life.”

With several sanctions already being placed against the country, the latest test defies both tough international sanctions and long-standing diplomatic pressure on the elusive nation to curb its nuclear ambitions. 

South Korea is said to have organised a closed-door meeting between its main spy agency and lawmakers to discuss the recent test and its repercussions. The spy agency reportedly informed that the it “does not think Pyongyang currently has the ability to develop miniaturised nuclear weapons that can be mounted on ballistic missiles.”

Kim Byungkee, a lawmaker from the opposition Minjoo Party revealed, “Intelligence officials are however worried that North's efforts to do so are progressing quicker than previously thought.”

Further, the South Korean President is also said to have discussed the matter with U.S. President Barack Obama.

She said, “South Korea will employ all available measures to put more pressure on North Korea,” as the country has previously conducted nuclear tests every three to four years.

The test came as the country celebrated the founding of the current regime, its 68th National Day. 

Even as South Korea expressed its dissatisfaction and huddled up to discuss strategies - Japan is said to have “protested adamantly” against North Korea, which it said is an “outlaw nation in the neighbourhood.”

The U.S., which North views as its other main enemy has warned of “serious consequences” following the test. President Barack Obama said that he will "ensure provocative actions from North Korea are met with serious consequences.”

Russia too reacted to the test and said, “We insist that the North Korean side stop its dangerous escapades and unconditionally implement all resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.”

China meanwhile, North Korea’s only major ally and its economic lifeline, under pressure from the world to react said that it “strongly opposes” North Korea's fifth nuclear test. The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement criticising North Korea for a test that disregards international objections.

Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University was quoted as saying, “Pyongyang likely wanted to show the world that strong international sanctions following its fourth nuclear test and long-range rocket launch earlier this year haven't discouraged its efforts to advance its nuclear weapons and missiles programs.”

However,  Tong Zhao, an associate at the Carnegie Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing has argued, “China doesn't have any sticks with North Korea. It won't cut off economic ties completely; that would make China vulnerable to North Korea threats... and a potential collapse."

However following the test, Chinese state media claimed that the country’s environmental protection agency had started nuclear radiation monitoring, while Japanese planes began to collect air samples from national air space to analyse possible radioactive materials. 

Further, reports pointed out that Yuriko Koike, Tokyo’s Governor was quoted as saying that the capital city was also testing water samples and monitoring radiation levels in the air.

North Korea drew international ire in January this year, when it declared that it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb. The country followed this with a satellite launch in February provoking the ire of the United Nations, that imposed the toughest sanctions ever on North Korea. 

Unabashed, North then sent out several threatening signs and military provocations to neighbour and long-standing enemy, South Korea and the United States. The country had claimed to have secured key intercontinental ballistic missile technologies like the re-entry and engine technologies and even threatened to conduct a “nuclear warhead detonation” test. 

Pyongyang also announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had inspected the final test fire of the 300-millimeter caliber rockets equipped with an accurate guidance system. Pyongyang then conducted many intermediate-range ballistic missile tests and even fired two suspected powerful new Musudan mid-range missiles.

Seoul's Defense Ministry said in its statement that so far, since 2011 when Kim Jong Un came to power, North Korea has fired a total of 33 ballistic missiles, while the country had fired 16 ballistic missiles during the 17-year rule of Kim's father, Kim Jong Il.

The tests have made North Korea one of the most heavily sanctioned places on earth.

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