A 5,3 magnitude earthquake on Friday morning near North Korea’s nuclear facilities at Punggye-ri, near the Chinese border, suggested a nuclear bomb was being tested.
According to a South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff statement, this corresponds to the detonation of a 10 kilotonne bomb, the strongest ever. That is twice as strong as the hydrogen bomb tested in January.
Within less than an hour, Pyongyang’s state media confirmed it can now mount a nuclear device on a ballistic rocket. North Korea has a usable long-range nuclear weapon.
The test is carried out on the anniversary of the Kim Jong-un, a third generation dictator.
China’s foreign ministry condemned the rest while the US warned of “serious consequences” to follow.
Barack Obama contacted immediately the Prime Minister of Japan and the President of Korea, while the White House spoke of “unbreakable US commitment” to the security of American allies. The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, condemned the test while South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye said the test proved the “maniacal recklessness” of leader Kim Jong-un.
It is unclear how committed all major powers are in applying pressure on the North Korean regime, as China and the US are in a period of heightened confrontation in East Asia. China in January conceded a tougher implementation of UN sanctions, but has made clear it does not want to see a collapse of the Pyongyang regime. Blocking oil exports to North Korea is also being considered.