The test hasn’t been independently verified.
Video provided by Newsy
North Korea has made speedy advances in its nuclear weapons program, but the rogue nation probably can’t yet reach U.S. cities with nuclear-tipped missiles, analysts say.
North Korea conducted a test Sunday of its most powerful nuclear bomb yet, triggering a fresh wave of concern about the country and its unstable leader Kim Jong Un.
It was North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, and Pyongyang claimed it detonated a hydrogen bomb, although that has not been confirmed by other nations.
Targeting a U.S. city requires a long-range missile that can carry a hefty nuclear payload and then survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
“It’s too early to conclude” that North Korea can effectively target mainland U.S. cities with significant nuclear weapons, said David Albright, an analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security. “There’s a lot of uncertainty.”
There’s little debate, however, that North Korea has made rapid headway in recent years in both missile technology and weapons development and is on a path to being able to reach U.S. targets.
Kim has already threatened Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, and remains an immediate threat to South Korea and other U.S. allies in the region, which North Korea could reach with conventional weapons and shorter-range missiles.
“I don’t think time is on our side here at all,” said Philip Coyle, an analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation, who remains skeptical that North Korea can currently target U.S. cities with large payloads. “Are they there now? I don’t think so, but if we keep fooling around they are going to get there.”
North Korean officials are master propagandists who want to convince the world they have an effective threat so they will be treated as a nuclear power. “The North deliberately exaggerates their capabilities,” Albright said.
For its part, Washington doesn’t want to underestimate the threat from North Korea, highlighting the danger it poses to the United States and its allies.
The heated rhetoric on both sides sometimes masks the North’s current capabilities. The recent spate of missile tests have generated alarm about North Korea’s ability to reach the mainland United States.
David Wright, an analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a recent blog that a July test by North Korea of an intercontinental ballistic missile indicated its missiles could reach Los Angeles, Denver or Chicago.
But the bulk of the North’s missile launches have been high-trajectory tests to determine missile range. An actual missile attack would be launched on a flatter trajectory with a heavy warhead attached.
In its most recent missile test, North Korea sent a missile flying over Japan on Aug. 29. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile traveled about 1,700 miles and reached a maximum height of 341 miles as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
“They could carry a hand grenade, but whether they could carry something bigger is unclear,” Coyle said.
Another technical challenge for an intercontinental ballistic missile is re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The process generates heat that can burn up a warhead if the missile and warhead are not designed properly.
Television imagery from the missile test over Japan seemed to show the missile breaking up as it re-entered the atmosphere.
“It’s one thing to build a missile and a bomb that can be carried on it, but then you have to survive the environment in space and re-entry,” Coyle said.
More: Haley to U.N.: North Korea is ‘begging for war’
More: Kim Jong Un is cruel and dangerous but not crazy, North Korean experts say
More: Hydrogen bomb vs. atomic bomb: What’s the difference?
More: Defectors provide rare glimpse of isolated life in North Korea
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2eIprri