On Tuesday evening, seismologists tipped off the Associated Press, who presented a jaw-dropping report of an “artificial quake” near a nuclear plant in North Korea. The quake measured about a 5.1, and reports didn’t immediately pinpoint the cause, but Japan pulled no punches and guessed it was a nuclear test. This hunch was not an unfounded one. With an artificial quake in a nuke-happy country, that would be a logical conclusion.
Indeed, the BBC quickly confirmed a claim by North Korean authorities that a hydrogen bomb was successfully detonated underground at the main nuclear test site. This is the fourth attempt by North Korea to do so since 2006, but this time was considered a “success.” The Guardian fills in the sobering blanks:
North Korea has carried out its fourth nuclear test as part of its “self-defence” against US aggression, according to state television. The announcement said the Pyongyang regime had successfully tested a miniaturised hydrogen nuclear device on Wednesday morning.
The country had a “legal right” to defend itself against the US, the statement said. The authorities also claimed that, if the US did not threaten North Korean sovereignty, it would not need to use nuclear weapons.
If this claim of a successful detonation is indeed true, then North Korea just pushed themselves closer to creating a nuclear warhead capable of hitching a ride on a long-range missile. This would, of course, place the U.S. in striking distance. Since North Korea reportedly conducted this test with the U.S. in mind, and a hydrogen bomb is much stronger than the garden-variety atomic bomb, this isn’t good news by any stretch.