NORTH KOREA’s decision to launch its fifth and most destructive nuclear test to date in celebration of the totalitarian state’s 68th anniversary has been condemned as ‘maniacal recklessness’ by a fearful South Korea.
Friday’s 10-kilotonne blast was twice the size of the fourth test and just shy of the 15 kilotons produced by the Hiroshima bomb. It triggered a 5.3 earthquake and demonstrated the regime’s capacity to mount a nuclear warhead to a strategic ballistic missile, posing a serious threat to the US mainland.
Barack Obama has warned of ‘serious consequences’, while China, Japan and South Korea have also denounced the test in the strongest terms as Asian stock markets dramatically dipped on hearing the news.
The exact type of bomb used remains unclear but the North’s ability to mount such a destructive weapon on a missile is perceived as a game changer, with the test coming just one day after the US president held a summit with South-east Asian leaders in Laos where he pledged to protect America and its Asian allies.
North Korea’s nuclear capacity has been shrouded in mystery, with the secretive regime making frequent claims that it possesses an arsenal capable of striking the heart of the American mainland roundly dismissed as bravado by military experts.