White House disputes North Korea’s claim of Hydrogen Bomb test

White House disputes North Korea’s claim of Hydrogen Bomb test

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By Somini Sengupta, David E Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun
United Nations — The United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea for its nuclear test on Wednesday, but there was no evidence yet that the North’s most powerful backer, China, was willing to stiffen sanctions in a way that could push the unpredictable country to the point of collapse or slow its nuclear progress.
As the question of how the international community should respond remained unanswered, White House officials, eager to undercut whatever propaganda value the North saw in claiming its first success in detonating a thermonuclear device, said that initial data from its monitoring stations in Asia were “not consistent” with a test of a hydrogen bomb.A two-hour closed session of the Security Council on Wednesday afternoon ended with a pledge to “begin to work immediately” on a resolution containing additional measures to rein in Pyongyang. It did not specify what those measures could be, and in the past, China and Russia have usually objected to steps that could threaten the North’s survival. The most obvious would be a prohibition on loading or unloading North Korean ships around the world, or on financial transactions with the nation.
The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, did not indicate the basis for the administration’s skepticism of Pyongyang’s claim. But more than a month ago, when Kim Jong-un, the country’s young leader, boasted that he possessed the technology for a hydrogen bomb, American officials said they had a variety of evidence — some technical, some from human sources — to call that claim into question.
A hydrogen bomb would be far more powerful, and more fearsome, than the type of nuclear weapon the North has tested three times since 2006, when it conducted its first test during George W. Bush’s administration.
The seismic wave left by the explosion was smaller than what most experts would expect from the detonation of a true thermonuclear weapon. Some experts said it was possible the North had increased, or boosted, the yield of a more traditional device by using tritium, a common technique, in the 70-year history of nuclear weapons.
A South Korean Defense Ministry official, who requested anonymity to speak about a national security matter, said Thursday that the ministry believed that even if the device was a boosted fission bomb, the test was probably a failure. The explosive yield was even smaller than that from the North’s last and third nuclear test, in early 2013, he said.
“Even a boosted fission bomb produces a yield bigger than this, so we don’t think this is a successful test of a boosted fission bomb either,” he added.
But the true nature of the test may not be revealed until results are back from atmospheric testing, usually conducted by Air Force planes that run along the North Korean coast “sniffing” for byproducts of an explosion. Yet after the test in 2013, such inquiries were inconclusive.
“We may never know,” said one intelligence official involved in the testing. “The technology is pretty hit-and-miss.”
Gary Samore, Mr. Obama’s top nuclear adviser in the president’s first term, said Wednesday that the timing of the test was strange, with North and South Korea discussing restoring some economic ties and the North trying to reach out to the Chinese. – Yahoo News

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