North Korea’s latest nuclear test probably had a yield of 250 kilotons, a US monitoring group said on Wednesday as North Korea vowed to accelerate its weapons programme in response to the “evil” sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.
Pyongyang conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test last week — saying it was a hydrogen bomb that could be fitted into a missile — prompting global condemnation and heightening tensions over its weapons ambitions.
The US Geological Service put the magnitude of the resulting earthquake at 6.3, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) and Norwegian agency NORSAR had raised their initial figures to 6.1.
As a result, the respected US website 38 North, which is linked to Johns Hopkins University, said it was raising its estimate for the yield of the blast to “roughly 250 kilotons”.
The figure is more than 16 times the size of the 15-kiloton US bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.
“This large explosive yield is also quite close to what 38 North had previously determined to be the maximum estimated containable yield for the Punggye-ri test site,” said 38 North.
Governmental estimates of the yield vary from South Korea’s 50 kilotons to Japan’s 160.
US officials have said they are still assessing whether it was an H-bomb, also known as a thermonuclear weapon, but that “so far there is nothing inconsistent with the North Korean claim that this was a hydrogen bomb”.
Satellite pictures from last Friday showed new activity in alternate tunnel portal areas at the Punggye-ri test site including parked trucks, mining carts and other equipments.
“The adoption of another illegal and evil ‘resolution on sanctions’ piloted by the US served as an occasion for the DPRK to verify that the road it chose to go down was absolutely right,” the North’s foreign ministry said in a statement published by the official KCNA news agency.
“The DPRK will redouble the efforts to increase its strength to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and right to existence,” the ministry said, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s formal name.
The fresh sanctions include a ban on the North’s textile exports and restrict shipments of oil products to punish Pyongyang for its sixth nuclear test.
The US-drafted resolution was passed unanimously on Monday, just one month after the Security Council decided to ban exports of coal, lead and seafood in response to Pyongyang’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that appeared to bring much of the US mainland into range.
That launch was followed by a nuclear test on September 3, its largest to date, which Pyongyang said was a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit onto a missile.
The ministry lambasted the latest resolution, calling it a “heinous provocation aimed at depriving the DPRK of its legitimate right for self-defence and completely suffocating its state and people through full-scale economic blockade”.