North Koreans might not have food to eat this year, but their government has announced that it has successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen bomb. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) released the following statement earlier today in Vienna:
“Our monitoring stations picked up an unusual seismic event in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) today at 01:30:00 (UTC). The location is very similar to the event our system registered on 12 February 2013. Our initial location estimate shows that the event took place in the area of the DPRK’s nuclear test site. The DPRK also claimed today that it has conducted yet another nuclear test, the fourth since 2006.
“We have perfectly succeeded in testing our first hydrogen bomb,” an anchor said on North Korean state TV. “It was one hundred percent capable from our own wisdom, technology and power. We have now scientifically test-proved a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.”
In a statement to the press, Ban Ki Moon, The United Nations Secretary-General, condemned North Korea’s actions and “demand[ed] the DPRK cease any form of nuclear activities.” International leaders and analysts have responded quickly to the incident, most calling on North Korea to cease all nuclear testing as this action breaches the United States Security Council resolutions. A senior researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Melissa Hanham, is less concerned about the potential threat. “I’m pretty skeptical,” she said, “[t]he seismic data indicates it would be very small for a hydrogen test … It just seems too soon to have this big technical achievement. But North Korea has always defied expectations.”
Referring to the potential weapon as “the H-bomb of justice,” The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that North Korea needs such a weapon:
The U.S. is a gang of cruel robbers which has worked hard to bring even a nuclear disaster to the DPRK, not content with having imposed the thrice-cursed and unheard-of political isolation, economic blockade and military pressure on it for the mere reason that it has differing ideology and social system.
Like, Hanham, many U.S. officials are skeptical as to whether the threat is a real one. No matter whether this situation is a potential international threat, or just a farce created by the North Korean government to look more powerful than it really is, it’s not good. Michael Auslin, writing for the American Enterprise Institute, takes the situation very seriously:
Whether Pyongyang intends to demand a new round of negotiations, so as to give the fiction that it might give up its new H-bomb capability, it is wise for Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo to consider the strategic and operational implications of a North Korean H-bomb. After all, even if today’s announcement is disproved, Pyongyang one day likely will get a fusion weapon. The test should be a spur for Seoul and Tokyo to begin serious, meaningful discussions both bilaterally and with the Washington on cooperation to deal with this new danger.
Pyongyang is building up military strength; meanwhile the North Korean people will likely face a terrible food shortage this year. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization said that “[t]he country is distributing an average of 250 grams of daily food rations per person, a 21 percent decline from a three-year average.” And also: “North Korea’s crop production has often been affected by drought and floods, deepening the country’s food shortages which some experts say are the result of bad planning and poor policy.” Once again, there is evidence that this nation is continuing to deny the dignity of its people and is instead threatening war with the rest of the world. For a more in-depth look at some of the horrors the North Korean government has caused and the struggles average citizens face each day, see my review of Joseph Kim’s “Under the Same Sky.”