With North Korea conducting its fifth nuclear weapons test on Friday, world leaders are on edge, condemning the country’s movement towards nuclear proliferation.
This is the second nuclear weapons test North Korea conducted this year, with an earlier one in January, and the message from the country is that it is making advances in its nuclear capabilities.
“The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable (North Korea) to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power,” North Korea said. “This has definitely put on a higher level (the North’s) technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.”
The explosive yield of the bomb is estimated to be 10 kilotonnes (kT), though some believe it to be closer to 20. To put it in perspective, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — though atomic and not hydrogen — was 15 kT.
“Today’s test, North Korea’s second this year, follows an unprecedented campaign of ballistic missile launches, which North Korea claims are intended to serve as delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons targeting the United States and our allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan,” President Barack Obama said after the test.
While North Korea’s nuclear development is advancing, its capabilities to deliver an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to Canada or to the United States isn’t quite there yet.
The country has four main types of long-range missiles: The Nodong, with a range of 1,300 km; Taepodong-1, with a range of 2,000 km; Musudan with a range of 4,000 km and Taepodong-2 with a range of 6,000 km.
Taepodong-2 is of the most concern as it is an ICBM. It can reach India, Indonesia, and even Alaska. However, so far, their missiles are incapable of reaching Canada. That is of little comfort to countries such as Japan and South Korea, both of which have tense relations with North Korea.
While that may be some solace to Canadians, the reality is that, even though missiles can’t reach here, the ramifications of their use on any country would be felt worldwide.
“The United States condemns North Korea’s September 9 nuclear test in the strongest possible terms as a grave threat to regional security and to international peace and stability,” Obama said on Friday.
And as North Korea rapidly accelerates its nuclear proficiency, there is the chance that it will develop ICBMs capable of travelling longer distances.
In 2015, renowned American nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker told Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation that as North Korea advances its nuclear capabilities, “The potential for miscalculations and accidents increases, and the consequences will be greater if it has more bombs and more sophisticated bombs with greater reach.”
“North Korea has tested short-, medium-, and long-range nuclear missiles. There are questions about the reach of its longest-range missiles and about North Korea’s attempts to miniaturize nuclear warheads to fit on such a missile. But experts have predicted that if it continues its program, North Korea could be able to deliver nuclear weapon via an intercontinental ballistic missile within a decade,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Editor in Chief John Mecklin said.
—with files from The Associated Press