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North Korea’s Nuclear Detonation – The World Reacts

by | Sep 3, 2017 | International

GRAHAM NOBLE

North Korea announced Sunday that it had conducted an underground test of what may be the country’s most powerful nuclear device. The explosion, which was reported on North Korean state T.V. as a “perfect success,” occurred at the Punggye-ri test site in the northeast. NORSAR, a Norwegian geoscience research foundation, put the yield of the explosion at 120 kilotons TNT, which is far more powerful than any of North Korea’s five previous nuclear tests. By comparison, the more powerful of the two nuclear bombs dropped by the U.S. on Japan during World War II had a yield of 20 Kilotons TNT. NORSAR based their estimate upon seismological data from their observatory at Kjeller, Norway.

TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING

The communist dictatorship began its quest for nuclear capability in the 1950s when its nuclear scientists began to receive training from the then Soviet Union. Within a decade, the country was mining its own uranium. In 1985, the North Korean government signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but, within a few years, began construction of its first nuclear facility. In 2003, Kim Jong Il withdrew North Korea from the treaty and plutonium production – previously suspended in exchange for economic aid – was resumed. In October 2006, the rogue nation conducted a first underground nuclear explosion at its only test site. That device had a yield of less than one kiloton.

Since that time, Punggye-ri has been developed and expanded to accommodate the testing of ever more powerful devices. In January of 2016, the North Koreans detonated a device with an estimated yield something short of ten kilotons and, nine months later, a 20-kiloton device. This latest test – which neither NORSAR nor the United States Geological Survey has confirmed as being an actual detonation of a nuclear bomb – would represent a massive step forward in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Estimations of the size of the explosive yield from this latest test are disputed. South Korea puts the yield at 50 kilotons, according to a report by CNN.

ESCALATING TENSIONS

Since the election of President Donald Trump, tensions between North Korea and the United States have escalated as the former issues threats of nuclear strikes and further develops its missile program. On August 29, North Korea fired a ballistic missile which flew over Japan before breaking apart and falling into the ocean. This action followed threats of an attack on the waters near the U.S. island territory of Guam which prompted a strong reaction from President Trump.

In response to Sunday’s apparent nuclear test, the president posted a series of tweets condemning North Korea’s actions and taking an indirect swipe at that nation’s chief sponsor, China. “North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test,” Trump tweeted, “Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States. North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.” He also warned South Korea that friendly advances toward their northern neighbor would be to no avail. “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

The test drew condemnation from both South Korea and China. CNN reports that the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement Sunday, saying “We strongly urge (the) North Korea side to face up to the firm will of the international community on the denuclearization of the peninsula, abide by relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, stop taking wrong actions that exacerbate the situation and are not in its own interest…” South Korea issued a warning, as part of its own reaction. “[the South Korea-U.S. alliance] has all the capability to punish North Korea and we will show our action demonstrating a strong response of the South Korea-U.S. combined forces…” A top South Korean military officer said in a statement.

It has long been accepted that North Korea has intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the mainland of the United States. According to several media reports, the North Koreans may now have the capability to fit such a missile with a device similar to the one tested Sunday.

President Trump’s latest comment on says “The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.”

Read More From Graham J Noble

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