Amid claims of H-bomb test, White House says North Korea must cease 'provocative acts'

By Doug G. Ware  |  Jan. 6, 2016 at 5:03 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- The White House on Wednesday said potential measures would be weighed to punish North Korea if its reported test of a hydrogen bomb is ultimately confirmed, and that those steps could possibly include further economic punishment.

Speaking to reporters in a briefing Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged that the United Nations Security Council had already mounted a response to the reported test that Pyongyang says was conducted early Wednesday.

Earnest said the Obama administration is monitoring the developments related to the reported test and would look at ways to further isolate the communist regime for the "provocative act" if it turns out to be true.

Regardless of whether the hydrogen bomb test occurred, Earnest reiterated that Kim Jong Un's regime has continued to run afoul of the international community in recent years on numerous matters, from human rights to militarization.

Last month, South Korea said Pyongyang had secured nearly 100 pounds of plutonium and was capable of producing a nuclear weapon with it.

"The international community is united in insisting that the North Korean regime needs to stop its provocative acts, and the missile tests, and the nuclear tests, and actually commit to a process of pursuing peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," Earnest said, also stating that it's North Korean citizens who pay the heaviest price for the nation's repeated defiance.

"North Korea is a country whose citizens are enduring extreme poverty and extreme isolation from the international community," he added. "All of that is a result of the failed leadership of the North Korean regime."

Earnest said China has been and will continue to be a U.S. ally in the matter of Pyongyang's alleged nuclear proliferation and noted that President Barack Obama addresses the issue virtually every time he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping or speaks with him on the phone.

"Neither the United States nor China will accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state," he said, adding that National Security Adviser Susan Rice has spoken to the Chinese ambassador to the United States about the purported test.

In addition to U.S. doubts about the test, skepticism also prevailed in Seoul on Wednesday.

South Korea's spy agency told reporters that the magnitude of the resulting seismic activity was too weak to have come from a hydrogen bomb. North Korea's most recent test emitted about 6.0 kilotons of nuclear power, well below the estimated 7.9 kilotons of power that was emitted during North Korea's third test in 2013.

If the reported H-bomb test is confirmed, it would be North Korea's sixth nuclear test in the last decade and its first involving a hydrogen bomb.

Elizabeth Shim contributed to this report

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