North Korea Conducts Sixth Nuclear Test

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Seismic activity in North Korea suggests the country just conducted its sixth nuclear test.

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake, according to both the U.S. Geological Survey and the China Earthquake Administration, was detected in North Korea Sunday, just hours after the North revealed what it claimed is a thermonuclear device, specifically a hydrogen bomb.

USGS confirmed that this was a surface-level event, and the South Korean military has determined that this was an artificial earthquake, indicating a nuclear test. The Japanese foreign ministry has confirmed that North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test at around noon on Sunday, September 3.

The fifth nuclear test, which the North Koreans conducted in September of last year, produced seismic data resembling a 5.3 magnitude earthquake. The nuclear device tested at that time had an alarming explosive yield of roughly 10 to 30 kilotons. Assuming North Korea just conducted another nuclear test, the explosive yield is almost certainly much higher than the last.

To generate seismic data resembling a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, North Korea would need to test a substantial staged thermonuclear bomb, according to renowned arms expert Jeffrey Lewis. Both Japanese and South Korean officials are suggesting that the yield may have been several times larger than the previous test.

The testing of a thermonuclear device would be a significant step forward for North Korea, which is in the process of developing an effective nuclear deterrent against the U.S. and its allies. The North has already developed an intercontinental ballistic missile that can range the vast majority of the continental U.S., and it is clear that North Korea has a nuclear warhead for this missile and the others in its arsenal.

If North Korea tested the device revealed earlier, the North Korean nuclear crisis is about to get significantly more complicated.

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