ShareThis Page
News

North Korea says it has loaded H-bomb onto ICBM

| Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, 8:50 p.m.
This undated image distributed on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, by the North Korean government, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location.
This undated image distributed on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, by the North Korean government, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location.

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a new, “super explosive” hydrogen bomb meant to be loaded into an intercontinental ballistic missile, Pyongyang's state media said Sunday, a claim to technological mastery that some outside experts will doubt but that raises the possibility of an imminent nuclear bomb test.

Photos released by North Korea showed Kim talking with his lieutenants as he observed a silver, peanut-shaped device that was apparently the purported thermonuclear weapon destined for an ICBM.

Aside from the factuality of the North's claim, the language in its statement seems a strong signal that Pyongyang will soon conduct another nuclear weapon test, which is crucial if North Korean scientists are to fulfill the national goal of an arsenal of viable nuclear ICBMs that can reach the U.S. mainland. There's speculation that such a test could come on or around the Sept. 9 anniversary of North Korea's national founding, something it did last year.

As part of the North's weapons work, Kim was said by his propaganda mavens to have made a visit to the Nuclear Weapons Institute and inspected a “homemade” H-bomb with “super explosive power” that “is adjustable from tens kiloton to hundreds (of) kiloton,” the state run Korean Central News Agency said.

President Trump spoke with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss “ongoing efforts to maximize pressure on North Korea,” the White House said.

The statement did not say whether the conversation came before or after the North's latest claim that its leader has inspected the loading of a hydrogen bomb into a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

According to the White House statement, the two leaders reaffirmed the importance of close cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea in the face of the growing threat from North Korea. Trump also noted that he looks forward to continued trilateral coordination on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.

North Korea in July conducted its first ever ICBM tests, part of a stunning jump in progress for the country's nuclear and missile program since Kim rose to power following his father's death in late 2011. The North followed its two tests of ICBMs, which, when perfected, could target large parts of the United States, by threatening to launch a salvo of its Hwasong-12 intermediate range missiles toward the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam in August.

It flew a Hwasong-12 over northern Japan last week, the first such overflight by a missile capable of carrying nukes, in a launch Kim described as a “meaningful prelude” to containing Guam, the home of major U.S. military facilities, and more ballistic missile tests targeting the Pacific.

To back up its bombast, North Korea needs to conduct nuclear tests. The first of its two such tests last year involved what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb; the second it said was its most powerful detonation ever. Experts and outside governments are skeptical of the hydrogen claim, but it is almost impossible to independently confirm North Korean statements about its highly secret weapons program.

It is clear, however, that each new missile and nuclear test gives the North invaluable information that allows big jumps in capability. A key question is how far North Korea has gotten in efforts to consistently shrink down nuclear warheads so they can fit on long-range missiles.

“Though we cannot verify the claim, (North Korea) wants us to believe that it can launch a thermonuclear strike now, if it is attacked. Importantly, (North Korea) will also want to test this warhead, probably at a larger yield, to demonstrate this capability,” said Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

North Korea's claim that “this warhead is variable-yield and capable of specialized weapons effects implies a complex nuclear strategy. It shows (North Korea) is not only threatening assured destruction of the U.S. and allied cities in the event it is attacked, but also that (North Korea) is considering limited coercive nuclear strikes, or is seeking credible response options for U.S. ones.”

North Korea is thought to have a growing arsenal of nuclear bombs and has spent decades trying to perfect a multistage, long-range missile to eventually carry smaller versions of those bombs.

South Korea's main spy agency has previously asserted that it does not think Pyongyang currently has the ability to develop miniaturized nuclear weapons that can be mounted on long-range ballistic missiles. Some experts, however, think the North may have mastered this technology.

In Washington, there was no immediate reaction from the White House or the State Department.

The North said in its statement Sunday that its H-bomb “is a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack according to strategic goals.”

Kim, according to the statement, claimed that “all components of the H-bomb were homemade ... thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants.”

In what could be read as a veiled warning of more nuclear tests, Kim underlined the need for scientists to “dynamically conduct the campaign for successfully concluding the final-stage research and development for perfecting the state nuclear force” and “set forth tasks to be fulfilled in the research into nukes.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me