EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Tensions between the US and North Korea, which greatly increased following North Korea’s two ICBM launches on July 4 and July 28, are now near the boiling point. North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, which it conducted on September 3, seemed to indicate that it has reached an advanced capability to develop nuclear weapons. Despite Kim’s provocations and concern that Pyongyang’s military power will reach a point of no return, one cannot confidently predict that President Trump will risk a ground offensive. Nor, however, does it appear that the war of words is having any effect on Kim. Trump may have to order an operation to destroy North Korean strategic targets from the air.
It appeared several months ago that Pyongyang was going to conduct a sixth nuclear test, and that moment arrived on September 3. According to the US Geological Survey, the explosion caused an earthquake at a seismic level of 6.3 in the area of Punggye-ri, North Korea’s nuclear test site. Another earthquake at a magnitude of 4.6 was detected in China, apparently resulting from an underground collapse of rocks set off by the test. The detonation yield of this latest test is estimated at 100 kilotons or more. According to North Korea’s KCNA news service, “The hydrogen bomb test was a perfect success” and “marked a very significant occasion in attaining the final goal of completing the state nuclear force.”
That was not all. Several hours before the nuclear test, KCNA announced that North Korea had succeeded in developing a thermonuclear bomb with “great destructive power” that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). KCNA said the bomb’s explosive power was adjustable from tens to hundreds of kilotons, and that it can be detonated at high altitudes for a super-powerful electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.
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