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South Korean officials have confirmed that a blast at a North Korean nuclear testing site was caused by the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.
According to the South Korean newswire service, Yonhap, officials observed a 5.7 magnitude seismic event near the Punngye-ri nuclear testing site at about 12.30pm, local time. Tremors could even be felt in north east China.
North Korean state television announced the test to be ‘a perfect success’ and even published photographs of Kim Jong Un directing the test. North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodogon Sinmun, reported on Sunday:
“All components of the H-bomb were homemade and all the processes ranging from the production of weapons-grade nuclear materials to precision processing of components and their assembling were put on the Juche basis, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants.”
The United Nations has issued a statement, passed by all fifteen members, condemned North Korea and has accused them of “deliberately undermining regional peace and stability and [having] caused grave security concerns around the world.”
Donald Turk, President of the European Council, released a statement condemning North Korea:
“The EU stands ready to sharpen its policy of sanctions and invites North Korea to restart dialogue on its programmes without condition. We call on the UN Security Council to adopt further U.N. sanctions and show stronger resolve to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
British Prime Minister, Teresa May, stated:
“The international community has universally condemned this test and must come together to continue to increase the pressure on North Korea’s leaders to stop their destabilizing actions.”
French President, Emmanuel Macron, stated:
“The international community needs to deal with this latest provocation with the greatest firmness, so that North Korea will restart dialogue without conditions and proceed with the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.”
President Donald Trump tweeted:
“North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”
President Trump continued:
“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.”
US Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis, has met with President Trump and Vice President, Mike Pence, to discuss the situation. Outside the White House, Mattis made a brief statement:
“We have many military options, and the President wanted to be briefed on each of them.”
“We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack, and our commitments among our allies are ironclad. Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response – a response both effective and overwhelming.”
“Kim Jong-un should take heed the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice. All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses, and they remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea.”
Republican Senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt, told NBC’s Meet the Press that nearby countries should do everything in their power to force North Korea to ease tensions. According to Blunt, the rogue communist state has been a topic of discussion in Senate Intelligence Committee meetings. Blunt said:
“In the intel committee that I serve on, I think it doesn’t disclose anything to say in that in the last year this has probably been the number one topic month after month – what was happening there, what are we going to do about it – and I hope the neighbourhood understands how critical this is.”
Blunt went on to refer to Kim Jong Un as “spoiled and reckless”:
“You’ve got a leader who is both spoiled and reckless. Spoiled and reckless is not a unique thing to find in the world today, but it is unique with somebody who has control of what may now be hydrogen weapons.”
The US is strongly considering issuing further trade sanctions to cut off North Korea. These sanctions may include Chinese banks and businesses doing trade with North Korea. US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said in an interview on Fox News on Sunday:
“We are going to strongly consider everything at this point and, again, I will draft a package for [President Trump’s’ strong consideration that would go as far as cutting off all trade and other business.”
President Trump has increased the force of his rhetoric against North Korea, warning the rogue nation that they would “regret it fast” if they kept threatening the US and her allies. Trump tweeted on Friday morning: “military solutions are now in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully, Kim Jong Un will find another path.”
Trump told reporters at his private golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey:
“If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat … or if he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”
“I hope that they are going to fully understand the gravity of what I said, and what I said is what I mean. Those words are very easy to understand.”
President Trump has received support from the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnball. Others, however, have expressed concern. Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, former Secretary of State under George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson told MSNBC that he is more concerned with Trump’s rhetoric than with North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
Similarly, German Chancellor has expressed concern:
“I don’t see a military solution and I don’t think it’s called for. I think escalating the rhetoric is the wrong answer, I see the need for enduring work at the UN Security Council.”
However, North Korea seems to be in a fairly precarious position. The Global Times has warned Pyongyang that China would not resist a US attack on North Korea. In an editorial, the Global Times said:
“China opposes both nuclear proliferation and war in the Korean Peninsula. It will not encourage any side to stir up military conflict, and will firmly resist any side which wants to change the status quo of the areas where China’s interests are concerned. It is hoped that both Washington and Pyongyang can exercise restraint. The Korean Peninsula is where the strategic interests of all sides converge, and no side should try to be the absolute dominator of the region.”
President Trump’s rhetoric is changing the dynamic of the argument. When North Korea threatened Guam, Trump threatened North Korea. Furthermore, a nuclear reprisal by the US on North Korea would probably wipe the rogue nation off the map.