North Korea claims to have hydrogen bomb

If true, North Korea has created a major escalation in the standoff on the peninsula. But is it true that Pyongyang has a hydrogen bomb ready to deploy? Reuters reports that analysts remain skeptical of the claim:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared on Thursday to claim his country has developed a hydrogen bomb, a step up from the less powerful atomic bomb, but outside experts were skeptical.

Kim made the comments as he toured the Phyongchon Revolutionary Site, which marks the feats of his father who died in 2011 and his grandfather, state founder and eternal president, Kim Il Sung, the official KCNA news agency said.

The work of Kim Il Sung “turned the DPRK into a powerful nuclear weapons state ready to detonate a self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation,” KCNA quoted Kim Jong Un as saying.

DPRK are the initials of the isolated North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. A hydrogen bomb, also known as a thermonuclear bomb, uses more advanced technology to produce a significantly more powerful blast than an atomic bomb.

This could create a crisis between the two Koreas, as well as between the US, Japan, and China. However, Pyongyang has had a long history of making claims without any substantive proof. Not long ago, Kim’s regime claimed that they had successfully developed a submarine missile launch system and released a laughably doctored photograph showing Kim waving to a missile climbing out of the sea (the front-page thumbnail to this post). The Washington Post reviews some of the less-than-credible claims:

In recent months, Pyongyang said it could launch a submarine ballistic missile, had made nuclear warheads small enough to fit on a missile and had restarted its key nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.

None of these assertions have been proven. In fact, North Korea appears to have disproved the first claim with a failed missile launch from a submarine last month. …

South Korean intelligence specialists were skeptical and dismissed Kim’s words as rhetoric.

“We don’t have any information that North Korea has developed an H-bomb,” Yonhap News Agency quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying. “We do not believe that North Korea, which has not succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear bombs, has the technology to produce an H-bomb.”

Perhaps the main weapons-development effort in Pyongyang is going towards science fiction. With all of the attention on Iran of late in the nuclear-weapons sweepstakes, this might just be a ploy for attention from a regime notoriously jealous about such things. If so, fine, but there was a time when analysts were skeptical that North Korea could go nuclear, too. Besides, Kim’s regime is up to something. Last week, analysts at Johns Hopkins noticed that the DPRK was building a tunnel which appears to be preparation for a nuclear-weapons test:

Satellite photographs from October and early November indicate North Korea is digging a new tunnel for nuclear testing, a US research institute said on Wednesday.

A report on 38 North, a North Korea monitoring website run by Johns Hopkins University’s school of advanced international studies in Washington, said the images showed significant construction since April at Punggye-ri, on North Korea’s east coast, where three previous nuclear tests were conducted.

However, there are no signs any testing is imminent, it said.

Perhaps the H-bomb claim is mere fantasy, but meanwhile North Korea’s nuclear-weapons development continues apace. They may not have an H-bomb now, but it may not take as long as people think for Pyongyang to get there, either.

Reuters has a broadcast, apparently from North Korea, that consists of photographs of the Dear Leader on this inspection tour, accompanied by hilariously dramatic narration. Presumably, it’s in Korean, but the suckupitude transcends language.