News / Asia

    What's Behind North Korea’s Nuclear Test?

    Yun Won-tae of the Korea Meteorological Administration stands in front of a screen showing seismic waves that were measured in Seoul after North Korea said it had conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test, Dec. 6, 2015.
    Yun Won-tae of the Korea Meteorological Administration stands in front of a screen showing seismic waves that were measured in Seoul after North Korea said it had conducted a powerful hydrogen bomb test, Dec. 6, 2015.
    Baik Sungwon

    North Korea’s sudden nuclear test is prompting analysts in Seoul and Washington to wonder what might have motivated Pyongyang to make the move.  

    Pyongyang announced Wednesday that it had successfully tested a miniaturized hydrogen bomb, also known as a thermonuclear bomb, which is more powerful than a conventional atomic bomb.

    A few hours before the announcement by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, earthquake agencies in the United States, Japan, China and South Korea detected unusual seismic activity near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where three previous tests have been conducted.

    Claim questioned

    However, the nature of the test remains unclear. The United States expressed skepticism about the North Korean claim. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the initial analysis by U.S. intelligence agencies was “not consistent with North Korean claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test.”

    A South Korean lawmaker said his country’s intelligence agency estimated the test involved an explosive yield smaller than that produced in the last atomic weapon test, in 2013.

    Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director general at the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, warned against rushing to a conclusion, saying the analysis could take weeks.

    What Pyongyang might be trying to accomplish with the test is another puzzle. Analysts say there are some key differences between Wednesday’s test and previous tests. This time, Pyongyang failed to provide any public warning of an imminent test. It also broke with the previous pattern of conducting a long-range missile test prior to a nuclear test.

    Leader's intentions unclear

    It is also unclear what Kim Jong Un is really intending to do. In his New Year’s speech, Kim appeared to stress the economy over military power, avoiding direct references to usual nuclear threats or the country’s policy of pursuing economic and nuclear development simultaneously.

    In his New Year's address, Kim Jong Un called for improved ties with Seoul, sparking speculation that he might pursue a conciliatory course as part of preparations for a major party convention in May.
    In his New Year's address, Kim Jong Un called for improved ties with Seoul, sparking speculation that he might pursue a conciliatory course as part of preparations for a major party convention in May.

    Instead, the young leader called for improved ties with Seoul, sparking widespread speculation that he might pursue a conciliatory course as part of preparations for a major party convention in May. Kim is expected to announce key state policies and a reshuffling of party officials and governing organizations during the rare gathering.

    Gary Samore, who served as White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction from 2009 to 2013, questioned whether the provocative move served Pyongyang’s interest.

    “I think it’s very difficult to understand what national interest was served by testing right now. It may be another indication of Kim Jong Un’s very poor judgment,” the former official said.

    Political ties?

    Stephen Noerper, senior vice president at the New York-based Korea Society, said Pyongyang’s action might be tied to domestic politics. The North Korean regime appears to be trying to demonstrate its nuclear capability to its citizens in anticipation of important political events such as Kim’s birthday, which is Friday.

    “I think that North Korea was testing from a domestic perspective in advance of Kim Jong Un’s birthday, and maybe more critically ahead of the May party congress, which will be the first to be held since 1980,” Noerper said.

    Nam Kwang-kyu, a professor at Korea University in Seoul, said the test might be aimed at “boosting Kim’s image as a leader and promoting his achievements.”

    Some say the way North Korea’s state media made the announcement showed the media’s deliberate attempt to link the test to Kim. In a rare move, North Korea’s state television carried images of a “written order” by Kim.

    In a report this week, Cheong Seong-chang, director of unification strategy at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, said Kim has been showing his own governing style in major addresses since he took power in late 2011 in an apparent attempt to elevate his status. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of Kim’s references to his predecessors in his New Year’s speech and joint editorial that outlines the county’s policies for the coming year dropped from 76 to 11, according to Cheong.

    Strong condemnations

    The latest test drew widespread condemnation from the international community. Existing U.N. sanctions prohibit North Korea from conducting nuclear tests. The U.N. Security Council vowed Wednesday to pursue new sanctions against the communist country, calling the test a “clear violation” of previous U.N. resolutions.     

    Kim Hwan Yong and Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: vincent tawadzana
    January 11, 2016 3:54 AM
    This makes yu think abt the bible prophecy at mathew 24

    by: Observer from: Canada
    January 07, 2016 10:18 PM
    It is difficult for the out siders to understand the purpose of the nuclear ambition of NK until we understand under the communist NK Kim is absolute authority over peoples including what they own dogs, cats ,chicken have to register, what they do, what they think all under control by kim's government. He can order who live or die. He is God in NK any thing bad were cause by Enemies, If one million NK die of starvation He will say American cause it and the peoples belive in him. they go to bed hungry and still support his nuclear ambition because he said it will protect them from American. Long as NK peoples confined under his authorian they have to obey or die.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora