White House officials shared skepticism of North Korea’s recent claims to have successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb. Early Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said intelligence agencies analysis does not match up with what North Korea claims was a successful hydrogen bomb test. Earnest confirmed that seismic activity was consistent with some kind of atomic detonation. Independent analysts around the world had expressed “significant and understandable skepticism of the claims of the North Korean regime” that it had a more advanced hydrogen bomb. Seismic activity data was identical to data from North Korea’s previous tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013. Air samples collected by drone should soon give analysts an idea of what happened, a senior U.S. military official said. But for the moment, the North Korean boast is being treated with skepticism.
American estimates of North Korea’s nuclear stockpile are hazy, and there is disagreement on whether Kim Jong-Un’s regime has miniaturized weapons enough to put them atop missiles. North Korea may have up to “a few dozen” nuclear weapons that could be fit on its vast fleet of ballistic missiles, which are capable of hitting targets in Japan, South Korea or elsewhere in the northern Pacific, including U.S. military bases as far south as Guam.
North Korea’s claim launched President Obama on a string of diplomatic activities on Wednesday. President Obama is scheduled to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye. National Security Adviser Susan Rice will meet with China’s Ambassador to the United States and Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken is scheduled to travel to the region next week. Earnest also pointed out that condemnation of North Korea is coming from all over the globe not just from U.S. allies but rivals like Russia.
What is true is that North Korea continues to be one of the most isolated nations in the world, and their isolation has only deepened as they’ve sought to engage in increasingly provocative acts.”
The United Nations Security Council held a closed-door meeting Wednesday geared to preventing Pyongyang from getting more nuclear weapons and punishing it for the test earlier that day. Past U.N. measures included arms, nonproliferation and luxury good embargoes, a freeze on overseas financial assets and a travel ban. None of them stopped North Korea from continuing its nuclear program. So what’s to say whatever the world community does now — if anything — will change that?
David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector, told CNN last year that Pyongyang could already have 10 to 15 atomic weapons, and that it could grow that amount by several weapons per year. He believed then that Pyongyang could miniaturize a warhead for shorter missiles, but not yet for intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. Only the original nuclear powers — the U.S., Russia, U.K., France and China — have been able to develop true H-bombs. Other nuclear nations, such as India and Pakistan, don’t have the capability.