Newswise — North Korea has announced what it called a successful test of a hydrogen bomb, but that claim is being called into question. The underground test happened at 10 a.m. local time Wednesday (Jan. 6), which was 7:30 p.m. CST Tuesday (Jan. 5). It corresponded with a magnitude 5.1 seismic event, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, comparable to North Korea’s previous tests of plutonium bombs, the most recent in 2013. This measurement is far smaller than would be expected with the more powerful hydrogen bomb, causing some experts to doubt that’s what it is. If the claim is true, however, it would mark an enormous advancement for the North Korean regime and leader Kim Jong Un while presenting a global controversy for other world leaders.
Texas Tech University has three experts who are available to talk about the North Korean bomb test.
ExpertsDennis Patterson, chairman of the Department of Political Science, (806) 834-5758 or [email protected] Dennis Patterson, an associate professor and chairman of the Department of Political Science, specializes in the politics and political institutions of Asia, with a focus on the continent’s security issues.
Talking Points• North and South Korea struck a truce in the wake of artillery exchanges in August 2014 in which North Korean leaders stated they would cease with provocative actions and the South agreed to stop beaming propagandistic broadcasts into the North.• Today’s surprise announcement was strongly condemned by the U.S., the European Union, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France and China. South Korean President Park Geun-Hye called the test “a grave provocation to our security” and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it a “grave threat.” In response, the UN Security Council is meeting and considering sanctions and other actions.• Preliminary analysis of the seismic data has concluded the explosion occurred but did not amount to a hydrogen (fusion) explosion. Most South Korean intelligence analysts said the test amounted to a “boosted-fission bomb.”
Quote• “This kind of behavior is very typical of the North Korean government, where it moves between the peaceful and provocative behavior,” Patterson said.
Ambassador Tibor P. Nagy Jr., vice provost for international affairs, (806) 834-0128 or [email protected] Ambassador Tibor P. Nagy Jr., vice provost for international affairs, served as U.S. ambassador to Guinea from 1996-99 and Ethiopia from 1999-2002. Prior to those assignments, he attended the State Department’s prestigious Senior Seminar and served in the Foreign Service from 1978-95 with assignments in Lusaka, Zambia; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Lome, Togo; Yaounde, Cameroon; and Lagos, Nigeria. Nagy was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1949 and arrived in the United States as a political refugee in 1957.
Talking Point• The bomb test claim could be intended to raise North Korea’s political standing amid current events.
Quote• “All indications are that this test was similar to the last one in 2013 and not a hydrogen bomb,” Nagy said. “Certainty will come only if and when outside countries can analyze radioactive gases from around the site. The likely reasons for this explosion are to provide Kim Jong Un an early birthday present, which he is celebrating this Friday, as well as strengthening his hand for the upcoming Seventh Congress of the Korean Workers Party in May – the first in 36 years.”
Victoria Sutton, Paul Whitfield Horn professor in the School of Law and director of the Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy, (806) 834-1752 or [email protected] Victoria Sutton is a Paul Whitfield Horn professor in the Texas Tech School of Law and director of the Center for Biodefense, Law and Public Policy, the only center at a law school in the U.S. to focus solely on issues of law and biodefense, biosecurity and bioterrorism. She served as chief counsel for the Research and Innovative Technology Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation from 2005-07 and as assistant director in the White House Science Office and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during George H. W. Bush’s presidency. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed her to the Texas Council on Key Resources and Critical Infrastructure for her expertise in biodefense law.
Talking Points• North and South Korea were both admitted to the United Nations, giving some legitimacy to North Korea as a separate country in 1991.• Both North and South Korea signed a declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in 1992. • The U.S. and North Korea negotiated the Agreed Framework, with an objective to end North Korea’s nuclear program, in return for food and fuel aid as well as light-water reactors. The Agreed Framework allowed for further talks toward normalization relations.• In 2003, North Korea became the only country to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of the 191 members, although four never joined: Israel, Pakistan, India and South Sudan.• North Korea began conducting nuclear tests again in 2013; they had not tested any nuclear weapons since 2009.
Quote• “North Korea is so heavily sanctioned that more sanctions will undoubtedly have little effect,” Sutton said. “Starving their people is considered a worthwhile tradeoff.”