North Korea nuclear crisis

A North Korean hydrogen bomb test in Pacific Ocean could bring ‘terrifying’ fallout, expert says

‘No one has tested above ground for decades,’ said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 September, 2017, 6:44am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 September, 2017, 11:33pm

A hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un promised would be the strongest “hard-line countermeasure” ever launched against the US could bring horrible radioactive effects, aggressive responses and lead to war, nuclear experts warned.

David Albright, founder and president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said on Friday that the potential radioactive fallout of such a test could be “terrifying”.

“No one has tested above ground for decades,” Albright said, referring to the US’ detonation of the world’s first hydrogen bomb in the South Pacific in the 1950s.

If North Korea conducted its test successfully, tensions would escalate dramatically, he told the South China Morning Post in an email.

“I would suspect that many would start to demand an end to the regime, not just sanctions leading to negotiations,” he said.

Suzanne DiMaggio, senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, said in Twitter messages that Kim Jong-un’s response to US President Donald Trump’s United Nations speech was unusual because “it’s directed at Trump in a personal way”.

“It should be taken seriously,” DiMaggio said, adding that a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific could be “setting up a dangerous situation – a potential stumbling toward war”.

Kim Jong-un brands Trump a ‘mentally deranged dotard’ in rare direct response to UN speech

Trump’s Tuesday remarks at the UN described Kim as a “rocket man” on a “suicide mission”. “[If the US] is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump told world leaders.

Two days later, Kim responded that the “US dotard” Trump would “face results beyond his expectation”. He added: “We will consider with seriousness exercising a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

Pyongyang’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, said in New York late on Thursday that the countermeasure “maybe means conducting the test of the strongest-ever hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean”.

Donald Trump threatens ‘total destruction’ of North Korea over nuclear programme during UN address

It’s unclear how a North Korean hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific might be carried out. Nuclear experts won’t speculate whether the bomb might be tipped on a missile or dropped by plane. Albright doubted that Pyongyang had the capability to deliver a miniaturised hydrogen bomb on a missile.

If the Trump administration were pushed into a corner, it could lash out at North Korea via cyber-warfare, covert action, or even more aggressive tactics to increase its ability to shoot down Kim’s missiles or destroy them before launch.

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“I do not think the US would attack North Korea in response to a test,” Albright added. “But the chance for war would likely increase.”


“In a crisis, Washington should reduce Pyongyang’s incentives to initiate the use of nuclear weapons,” the Washington-based Brookings Institute think tank said in a report released on Friday. Such a move would signal that “North Korean restraint would be reciprocated, but that DPRK escalation would have grave implications for regime survival,” according to the report.