Like many of you, we’re still reading reports that discuss North Korea’s nuclear capabilities in the future tense, as something that Pyongyang will someday achieve, though it’s nuclear capability and, for that matter, it’s ICBM development, is coming along more rapidly than expected.
The fact is, as North Korea demonstrated earlier this week, Pyongyang already has its capabilities, and it’s time for the U.S. and the world to acknowledge these capabilities and then formulate their defense strategies accordingly.
After months of anticipation, it finally happened. On Sunday morning, September 3, at precisely noon local time, North Korea detonated its sixth nuclear device ever to test a presumably new thermonuclear bomb design. The explosion generated an earthquake that was felt across the border in China and suggested a total explosive yield on the order of hundreds of kilotons, or ten times greater than the weapon the United States dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945 — and likely similarly an order of magnitude greater than North Korea’s fifth nuclear test almost exactly a year ago.
What exactly did North Korea achieve with this test? In its state media, North Korea claimed the new device was an advanced nuclear bomb design ready for use with its Hwasong-14/KN20 intercontinental-range ballistic missile — the missile it first tested on July 4 this year — which can likely reach parts of, if not most of, the continental United States. If North Korea’s new bomb design appears as capable as initial impressions suggest, and its claim of missile-readiness are unexaggerated, North Korea has unquestionably attained what it sees as the capabilities necessary to deter the United States from a military attack against its leadership and territory.
For the doubters, North Korea released a highly specific technical statement through its state-run Korean Central News Agency meant to signal specific knowledge of thermonuclear bomb design — specifically, what is known as a two-stage Teller-Ulam bomb. The accomplishment, if verified, would be no small feat. Many new nuclear powers struggle to achieve this design capability quickly if at all, including India and Pakistan more than 20 years after their first tests in 1998. France took over 8 years, achieving this destructive capability in 1968. North Korea may have gotten there in a little over 10 years — which is quite impressive given the noose around the country and its program.
Source: War on the Rocks
Why it’s on our radar: All of what we’re now experiencing regarding North Korea’s missile and nuclear development was nothing we had not seen coming. After all, Pyongyang’s missile tests, for example, have been quickening and with each successful test we were able to determine that the designs were more sophisticated and of longer range. The same is true for North Korea’s nuclear development. The point is, the North Koreans now possess a weapon whose yield is large enough to flatten cities, and very likely have the capability to deliver that destructive power thousands of miles.
North Korea has officially joined the exclusive nuclear club.