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North Korea could test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific, expert says

By
Elizabeth Shim
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reads a statement released Friday, threatening to take the highest level of hardline countermeasure in history against U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo by Yonhap
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reads a statement released Friday, threatening to take the "highest level of hardline countermeasure in history" against U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo by Yonhap

Sept. 22 (UPI) -- North Korea may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean, South Korean experts say, following a statement from Pyongyang the country is ready to take its nuclear weapons program to the next level.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Thursday in New York that in "his opinion," leader Kim Jong Un was prepared to conduct the "most powerful test of a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean."

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Ri made the statement in response to a question from a Yonhap reporter who asked Pyongyang's top diplomat how he interprets Kim's unprecedented remarks about U.S. President Donald Trump, after Trump said the United States would have "no choice but to totally destroy North Korea" if the country must defend itself.

South Korean experts on the military said the threat is credible because "North Korea has kept its word" on provocations, News 1 reported.

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Experts also said the bold statement from Ri is an indication North Korea has secured "reliable" ballistic missile technology.

Boasting of advancements shows the regime has made progress in the production and miniaturization of nuclear bombs, they say.

North Korea has claimed it is capable of miniaturizing a nuclear weapon and installing the bomb on midrange and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

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The explosion of a North Korean hydrogen bomb could be potentially deadly, because it could jam electronic signals and disable technology on planes, ships and submarines in the Pacific.

"North Korea has so far conducted underground nuclear tests," said Seo Gyun-ryul, a South Korean nuclear engineer and analyst at Seoul National University. "If past tests were used to verify the explosive power of nuclear bombs, it is likely North Korea will test an electronic bomb in the Pacific."

Electronics bombs, or electromagnetic pulse technology, can burn and destroy all electronic equipment and circuits. Digital equipment at sea will be permanently damaged if Pyongyang detonates an electronic bomb, according to Seo.

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Seo also said the EMP test is likely to take place at an elevation of about 60 to 190 miles, in the vacuum of the Earth's stratosphere.

"Assuming North Korea's sixth nuclear test released 100 kilotons of energy, the [potential] explosion could affect all [electronic] equipment within a radius of 930 miles," Seo said.

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