The international fallout from North Korea’s announcement of a “successful” hydrogen bomb test has already begun with world leaders slamming the development as a “grave threat” and “deeply worrying.”
North Korea announced overnight that it had conducted what it calleda “successful” miniaturized hydrogen bomb test. If verified, the trial raises the politically isolated country’s nuclear capabilities and potential threat to the wider world — particularly if the bomb could be attached to a missile.
“The republic’s first hydrogen bomb test has been successfully performed at 10:00 am (0130 GMT),” North Korean state television announced.
“With the perfect success of our historic H-bomb, we have joined the rank of advanced nuclear states,” it said, adding that the test was of a miniaturized device, AFP reported. It added that the test was “an act of self-defense” against the U.S.
The U.S. Geological Service reported that a 5.1-magnitude earthquake near to the test site.
News of the test quickly drew condemnation from North Korea’s nearest neighbors and beyond.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called it “deeply troubling” and “profoundly destabilizing for regional security.”
“This test once again violates numerous Security Council resolutions despite the united call by the international community to cease such activities,” he told reporters. “It is also a grave contravention of the international norm against nuclear testing.”
South Korean President Park Geun-hye was quick to criticize its northern neighbor, calling the test a “grave provocation to this country’s security,” adding her government would work closely with the international community to ensure that North Korea would “pay the price for conducting a nuclear weapons test,” according to a statement on the government’s website.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the nuclear test a “grave threat to our nation and one we cannot accept,” denouncing the act, according to NBC.
The North Korean Communist regime, led by Kim Jong Un, has long been under U.S. and UN sanctions due to its previous nuclear tests — Wednesday’s was the fourth since 2006 — and missile programs, but it has not stopped it from bellicose rhetoric against the West or continuing its pursuit of nuclear weaponry.
Showing that the tide may be turning against it, even China is tiring of Pyongyang’s ambitions. Despite being a traditional ally of Pyongyang, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said the country knew nothing of the test and said on Wednesday that it “firmly opposes” the hydrogen bomb trial and that it would summon North Korea’s ambassador to China to lodge a protest, according to NBC.
The United Nations Security Council (made up of permanent members China, France, Russia, the U.K. and U.S.), is to hold an emergency meeting to discuss how to react to the latest provocation from North Korea, a country largely politically and economically isolated.
The U.K.’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the test “underlines the very real threat that North Korea represents to regional and international security.” Meanwhile, the U.K.’s former ambassador to North Korea described the nuclear test as “deeply worrying” in an interview with the BBC.
Fellow council member Russia also condemned the bomb test, saying it would amount to a gross violation of international law if confirmed, Reuters reported.
However, the test was also met with skepticism. The U.S. sounded a note of caution by saying it was still studying the precise nature of the apparent test, although it vowed to “respond appropriately,” AFP reported.
South Korea’s spy agency also cast doubt on the authenticity of the H-bomb, saying its neighbor may have tested an A-bomb (atomic bomb), the Associated Press reported.
Flouting the ban
Campaigners against the testing of nuclear weapons have also slammed the North Korean announcement.
Lassina Zerbo, head of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), said in a statement on its website that if North Korea’s latest test was verified, the test would constitute a “breach of the universally accepted norm against nuclear testing; a norm that has been respected by 183 countries since 1996.”
In addition, Zerbo said the test was a “grave threat to international peace and security” and urged Pyongyang to “refrain from further nuclear testing and to join the 183 States Signatories who have signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) (which bans all nuclear explosions).”
Although there has been widespread concern over North Korea’s latest nuclear test, it is by no means the only country capable of launching a nuclear weapon. According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, nine countries (the U.S., Russia, U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) possess more than 15,000 nuclear weapons altogether.
Despite the U.S. last conducting a nuclear weapons test in 1992, China in 1996 and India and Pakistan in 1998, North Korea has continued to flout the test-ban treaty in what is seen as a way for the hostile state to remind the rest of the world of its presence and nuclear capabilities.