By Allegra Berg
On Friday, September 9, North Korea conducted a nuclear test with an explosion equivalent to 10 kilotons of TNT, its most powerful nuclear test so far, according to CNN. While South Korean officials reported the figure, some speculate that it was 20 kilotons. For reference, the bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan was 15 kilotons. Reports of the North Korean test came days after a magnitude 5.3 earthquake was detected near the Pungyeri nuclear testing site.
Days before the test, North Korea had fired three ballistic missiles that landed within Japanese airspace, causing several concerns for neighboring nations that South Korea’s weapons program is rapidly advancing. John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University in South Korea, told CNN, “They’ve been demonstrating not just the ability to cause a nuclear detonation, but to mount it and turn it into a weapon.”
According to BBC, South Korea has accused the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, of “maniacal recklessness.” The recent nuclear test occurred during National Day, a celebration of the North Korean regime as well as a time for the military to display its strength.
The test was not unforeseen, according to The Diplomat, as Pungyeri, the area where nuclear tests usually occurs, was observed to be increasing in activity earlier this year. At the time, it was unclear whether the increase in activity was for maintenance, excavation, or preparation for a fifth nuclear test. Reuters reports that North Korea has sufficient plutonium and enriched uranium to make at least 20 bombs and has the capacity to add approximately seven more per year.
China has condemned the test and has actively been against North Korea testing nuclear weapons after a previous episode in January. But China has refused to take action, agreeing only to engage in diplomatic protests to discourage North Korea from another nuclear test. Elsewhere around the world, however, responses to the fifth nuclear weapon test were much more severe. The United States, Russia, South Korea, and Japan have stated that more sanctions need to be put into place, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to the BBC, said North Korea’s actions were “in complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community.”