North Korea has confirmed nuclear testing suspicions after foreign geological agencies reported two earthquakes in the country. Bordering cities in China felt the tremor that lasted several seconds, followed by an aftershock. The seismic wave was also felt along the Russian coast near Vladivostok. Today, seismologists from Japan and U.S. detected a 6.3 magnitude earthquake (South Korean services report 5.7), followed by an aftershock of 4.6 magnitude minutes later.
The coordinates of the two quakes were almost identical, which quickly spurred international concern. Later on, the Pyongyang’s regime state television stated that a hydrogen nuclear bomb was detonated with success, adding that the bomb’s dimensions are small enough to be equipped with an intercontinental ballistic missile. There is currently no confirmation of the exact weapon used to provoke the tremors; experts say that it is impossible at this point to confirm whether a hydrogen bomb was tested. However, some sources claim that this by far North Korea’s most powerful nuclear tests. Estimates of the blasts’ explosive power are within 75 and 120 kilotons. Indeed, Japan seismic services state that the resulting tremors were at least 10 times as powerful as North Korea’s nuclear testing last year.
A few hours after the tremors, Japan confirmed its near neighbour had conducted a sixth nuclear test. Following an urgent meeting of Japan’s National Security Council, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said: “after examining the data we concluded that it was a nuclear test.” In addition, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed that “it is absolutely unacceptable if North Korea did force another nuclear test, and we must protest strongly.” South Korea’s military, on the other hand, concludes that first earthquake was artificial, and has also convened a meeting of Seoul’s National Security Council. China, Pyongyang’s only major ally, has resolutely condemned the detonation in a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry.
Although UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions have isolated North Korea internationally, this event escalates recent tensions and endangers the stability of a complex regional situation that includes numerous confrontations. North Korea has been developing a nuclear programme and missile programme during its years of defiance of the international community. Tensions are increasing rapidly; on August 29, four South Korean fighter jets bombed targets near the Northern border in response to North Korea firing a missile over Japan. Furthermore, prior to these events, President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed measures against the escalating threats from North Korea yesterday. If the tremors were generated by a hydrogen bomb, Kim Jong-un’s threats about developing advanced thermonuclear weapons with immense destructive force would be confirmed.
Last month, North Korea distributed a propaganda video threatening to fire missiles near the U.S. territory of Guam. The video, which depicts President Trump and other high-ranking officials, is a clear demonstration of belligerence. Trump responded promptly following the release of the video, warning that the aggression would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” While many observers have dismissed the rhetoric of North Korea’s supreme leader as mere delusions of grandeur, these nuclear tests give some merit to the threats of the regime. These events have shocked those with low expectations of the capacity of an isolated North Korea due to the rapid pace of technological improvement over a period of time. In short, North Korea has demonstrated a stronger technological capability than analysts have predicted.
When a nation threatens preemptive nuclear war, there is cause for concern. This detonation seems to be a deterrent message towards the U.S., South Korea and Japan’s actions towards the North Korean regime. China and Russia have both also been alarmed by the North’s weapons and nuclear tests, and hopefully, they will play a key role as mediators in this situation. In the coming days, the international community is likely to adjust its policies regarding Pyongyang’s weapons programme.