Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator who rules his country like an iron-fisted cult leader, announced on December 10 that his country has developed a hydrogen bomb. Jong-un made the statement during an arms industry inspection at a weapons manufacturing site in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, as well as through state-run media, according to the Washington Post.
“[North Korea is] a powerful nuclear weapons state ready to detonate self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation,” Jong-un said, according to the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The facility where Jong-un made the announcement, known as the Phyongchon Revolutionary Site, is apparently a hub for North Korea’s military-industrial complex, according to the Washington Post. Three generations of North Korean leaders – Jong-un as well as his father and grandfather – have visited the site, which has developed everything from firearms to bombs.
“If we struggle in the same spirit with which the workers produced sub-machine guns by their own efforts just after the liberation of the country, when everything was in need, we can further build up our country into a powerful one no enemy dares provoke,” Jong-un said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
North Korea has demonstrated some alarming military capacities, as well as contempt for international rules and sanctions. According to the Washington Post, the International Atomic Energy Agency believes North Korea is strengthening its nuclear program, but it hasn’t been allowed inside the country inspect anything. North Korea has also constructed nuclear facilities and launched a rocket capable of placing an object into Earth’s orbit.
In 2013, North Korea caused an international incident by successfully testing long-range rockets and detonating a nuclear weapon. In September, it was reported that the country was nearly ready to launch a satellite. And just a day before the hydrogen bomb announcement, the Guardian reported that North Korea was close to finishing an upgrade on a rocket launch site in Sohae.
The country has also produced some duds. Many of their supposedly successful accomplishments are rumored to be fabricated or altered using computer imaging.
Earlier in 2015, Jong-un claimed his country had developed the technology to launch rockets from a submarine and released photos of the launch. Reuters reported that analysts and a top U.S. military official found the photographs to have been doctored. South Korea, however, believed the photos were real and that North Korea had executed a successful missile launch from a submarine.
Opinion seems divided on just how much of North Korea’s proclamations can be taken seriously. President Bush placed them in his Axis of Evil, and commentators on television regularly warn of the danger the country poses.
But many experts on military and international affairs have long been skeptical of North Korea’s military capabilities and their frequent pronouncements of might. Daniel Pinkston, an expert on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program based at a university in Romania, told the Washington Post that it’s “virtually impossible” for the country to have developed a hydrogen bomb.
South Korea’s leading news agency, Yonhap, is also skeptical of the claim. According to the Chicago Tribune, Yonhap News Agency reports having no reliable information that the country can produce a hydrogen bomb, apart from Jong-un’s statement.
“We do not believe that North Korea, which has not succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear bombs, has the technology to produce an H-bomb,” an intelligence official told Yonhap.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, the country’s nuclear capabilities were believed to be limited to atomic bombs, which use a fission process to unleash the energy within atoms. Although more difficult to create and deliver, hydrogen bombs use fusion to add weight to the atomic nuclei and can have payloads that are thousands of times more powerful, according to PBS.
[Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]