East Asia’s secluded dictatorship says it’s got the technology to make monstrously destructive hydrogen bombs. Fat chance, say some defence experts.
Leader Kim Jong Un apparently told North Korean state media on Thursday that the nation has turned into “a powerful nuclear weapons state ready to detonate [a] self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation”.
Despite the threatening language, and years’ worth of North Korean warnings that it’d wipe out the US, folks in security and defence circles say that the country having that kind of advanced technology is unlikely.
CNN reports that the state first announced its possession of nukes in 2003, with tests carried out in 2006, 2009 and 2013. During those periods, North Korea has been experimenting with plutonium, but more sophisticated science is needed to create the more powerful hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear bombs. H-bombs are way more more destructive than A-bombs — several hundred times more destructive.
While atomic bombs use nuclear fission to detonate, splitting an atom’s nucleus to release massive amounts of energy, hydrogen bombs rely on nuclear fusion, in which nuclei come together to form a new nucleus. The result? An explosion 700 times more powerful than when the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.
But experts think a completed H-bomb in North Korea is unlikely, as they doubt the impoverished, isolated nation has tech that’s up to snuff. They also think that while North Korea may certainly be developing a hydrogen bomb, the claim that they have one ready to drop is likely a fear-mongering attention grab. This is the same country that parades its ballistic missiles at national ceremonies in front of international media, after all.
This H-bomb claim wouldn’t be the first wildly bold assertion from Kim’s government: Back in June, state media also reported that North Korean pharmaceuticals company brewed up a cure for MERS using “extracts from ginseng grown in rare earth elements”.
Top image: Liu Xingzhe/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images