NORTH Korea has trumpeted its first hydrogen bomb test as an “H-bomb of justice”, but the announcement has been met with widespread scepticism.
The test was met with a burst of jubilation and pride in Pyongyang, with a North Korean television anchor saying the test of a “miniaturised” hydrogen bomb had been a “perfect success” that elevated the country’s “nuclear might to the next level”. A large crowd celebrated in front of Pyongyang’s main train station as the announcement was read on a big video screen, with people taking videos or photos of the screen on their mobile phones and applauding and cheering.
But South Korea’s spy agency thought the estimated explosive yield from the explosion was much smaller than what even a failed H-bomb detonation would produce.
North Korea’s state media stood firm in saying the test was a self-defence measure against a potential US attack. “The ]country’s] access to H-bomb of justice, standing against the US, the chieftain of aggression… is the legitimate right of a sovereign state for self-defence and a very just step no-one can slander.”
In Seoul and elsewhere there was high-level worry. South Korean president Park Geun-hye ordered her military to bolster its combined defence posture with US forces. She called the test a “grave provocation” and “an act that threatens our lives and future.”
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said: “We absolutely cannot allow this.”
Washington and nuclear experts have been sceptical about past North Korean claims about H-bombs, which are much more powerful and much more difficult to make than atomic bombs.
A confirmed test would further worsen already abysmal relations between Pyongyang and its neighbours and lead to a strong push for tougher sanctions on North Korea at the United Nations. The Security Council quickly announced an emergency meeting.
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the nuclear weapons test is a “clear breach” of UN Security Council resolutions and “undermines regional and international security”.
Mr Stoltenberg: “I condemn the continued development by North Korea of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and its inflammatory and threatening rhetoric.”
He called on North Korea’s government to “fully respect its international obligations and commitments”. It could take weeks before the true nature of the test is confirmed.