North Korea claimed that it has successfully conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test to date on Friday morning.
The North Korean state media reported that its army has tested a nuclear warhead that could potentially be mounted on ballistic rockets, according to CNN. The report stated that having nuclear powered missiles in its arsenal would enable North Korea to produce “a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power.”
So far, the country has conducted a total of five nuclear tests: once in 2006, 2009, 2013 and twice in 2016. Since its first test in 2006, the totalitarian state has been hit by five sets of sanctions by the United Nations.
Experts worry that any actual live nuclear weapon launch attempt poses an extremely dangerous risk. North Korea is also seen to have become increasingly aggressive because the international community has not been taking it seriously.
Senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies Melissa Hanham explained:
“It’s hard for us to verify their claim. My deep fear is that they will launch a live nuclear weapon on one of their missiles, but that would be extremely dangerous as that could trigger a war.”
Seismic activity was registered at a magnitude of 5.3 near Punggye-ri, Kilju County at 9 a.m., the reported time of the test. The site is also known as North Korea’s common nuclear test location.
South Korea’s Meteorological Administration’s Kim Nam-wook said the test explosion had the power of 10 kilotons, the regime’s most powerful test yet. Comparatively, the Hiroshima bomb that the U.S. dropped on Japan during World War II was 15 kilotons.
Several world leaders have expressed condemnation toward the test, with many stating that it was a direct violation of the UN Security Council resolution, according to BBC.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye called the North Korean government as “fanatically reckless.”
“The only thing that Kim Jong Un regime can gain from the nuclear tests is stronger sanctions from the international community and its isolation. Such provocation will eventually hasten its path to self-destruction,” Park said.
United States President Barack Obama, reportedly spoke to South Korean and Japanese leaders separately by phone, reassuring them of “the unbreakable U.S. commitment to the security of our allies in Asia and around the world.”
Even China, which has been its only ally, has been infuriated by the North’s recent actions, even agreeing to impose tougher U.N. sanctions on the country.
China expressed that it “firmly opposed” the test, while Japan said that it “protested (the action) adamantly.”
Japan has already sent four jets to test for radiation while the U.S. Air Force is reportedly flying its WC-135 Constant Phoenix Aircraft to take air samples and see if it can determine if a nuclear event has indeed occurred.
North Korea has recently expressed dismay at the U.S.-South Korean joint-planned anti-missile defense system installation in South Korea. The two allies are also still currently holding joint-military exercises.