Latest North Korean nuclear test is largest yet as Pyongyang speeds development

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North Korea has conducted its sixth nuclear test and, according to reports, it is the largest one yet.

According to reports, Pyongyang tested a 100-kiloton weapon, which was 10 times larger than its last test in September 2016. To put that in perspective, the explosive yield was about five times larger than the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945.

The test drew immediate condemnation from the Trump administration and also the Chinese government. President Trump, who had been touring Hurricane Harvey-damaged eastern Texas, tweeted, “North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States…..North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success. … South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

Meanwhile, the Chinese foreign ministry said North Korea “has ignored the international community’s widespread opposition, again carrying out a nuclear test. China’s government expresses resolute opposition and strong condemnation toward this,” adding, “We strongly urge the DPRK (North Korea) to face the strong will of denuclearisation from the international community, earnestly abide by the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, stop taking mistaken actions which worsen the situation and are also not in line with its own interests, and effectively return to the track of solving the problem through dialogue.”

Sources: Reuters; Wall Street Journal

Why it’s on our radar: U.S. intelligence agencies, via satellite imagery, have been tracking tunneling activity at the test site for months, so it was not wholly unexpected. Still, several things are notable regarding the test.

First and foremost is the size of the yield. In the course of a year, Pyongyang has managed to increase it by a factor of ten, which is substantial. Atop an ICBM, that is more than enough destructive firepower to reduce large American cities to rubble. Secondly, the timing of the test is significant. It came as Chinese President Xi Jinping was preparing to host a summit of BRICs nations — Brazil, Russia, India China —  which are all deemed to be at a similar stage of newly advanced economic development. It was the second time this year that North Korea timed a controversial military test to coincide with a major international political gathering in China. In May Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile as leaders from 29 nations gathered in Beijing for a summit touting China’s new Silk Road project. Why would North Korea intentionally aggravate its only major ally and trading partner?

We will have a much more comprehensive analysis of this latest North Korean nuclear test in the next issue of the Executive Intelligence Summary. To subscribe, click here

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