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Claims of the military milestone—which have not yet been confirmed by international entities—were announced on state television and then streamed live around the world on YouTube to about 10,000 global viewers by YTN News, a South Korean news agency.
“Our first hydrogen bomb test was a complete success,” North Korea’s spokeswoman announced on Wednesday afternoon, local time.
A hydrogen bomb, otherwise known as a thermonuclear weapon, is exponentially more powerful than plutonium nuclear weapons, which the country has previously tested. North Korean supreme leader Kim Jung-un has long sought hydrogen bomb technology and recently claimed to have developed thermonuclear capabilities, reports the New York Times.
Wednesday’s test occurred at or near the same location as three previous North Korean nuclear bomb tests.
“If there’s no invasion on our sovereignty we will not use nuclear weapon,” the North Korean spokeswoman said. “This H-bomb test brings us to a higher level of nuclear power.”
Before the announcement, an “artificial” 5.1 magnitude earthquake was detected by multiple international monitors near North Korean nuclear testing grounds at Punggye-ri. Speculation immediately began about possible new tests being conducted by the communist dictatorship.
The White House said in a statement that it is “monitoring and continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with out regional partners.”
“While we cannot confirm these claims at this time,” the White House continued, “we condemn any violation of UNSC [United Nation Security Council] Resolutions and again call on North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments.”
Governments in Seoul and Tokyo called emergency meetings in response to the situation. No independent entity has yet confirmed that a hydrogen bomb was detonated.
“U.S. Forces Korea is aware of reports on North Korea’s nuclear test today,” U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement. “We remain vigilant and are fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea ally to maintain security on the peninsula.”
The U.S. Department of Defense did not immediately responded to our request for comment.
Update 10:43pm CT, Jan. 5: Added contextual information about hydrogen bombs and North Korea’s claims of developing thermonuclear weapons.
Update: 11:17pm CT, Jan. 5: Added White House statement.
Photo via Stephan/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)
Patrick Howell O'Neill is a notable cybersecurity reporter whose work has focused on the dark net, national security, and law enforcement. A former senior writer at the Daily Dot, O'Neill joined CyberScoop in October 2016. I am a cybersecurity journalist at CyberScoop. I cover the security industry, national security and law enforcement.