North Korea has hit the button on its fifth and potentially most powerful nuclear test, claiming to have successfully tested and detonated a nuclear warhead, on the same day North Korea celebrates its independence day.
North Korea's state media said the warhead could be mounted on ballistic rockets and would enable North Korea to produce "a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power."
South Korean and international monitors detected unusual seismic activity Friday morning near the North's northeastern nuclear test site. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that “artificial seismic waves” from a quake measuring 5.0 were detected near the Punggye-ri test site.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye strongly condemned the test, saying in a statement that it showed the “fanatic recklessness of the Kim Jong-un government as it clings to nuclear development.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has overseen a robust increase in the number and kinds of missiles tested this year. Not only has the range of the weapons successfully tested jumped significantly, but the country is working to perfect new platforms for launching them — submarines and mobile launchers.
China, the North Korea's economic lifeline and only major ally, has previously offered cover to Pyongyang, though Beijing has expressed growing frustration with what outsiders call provocations. China's bottom line is that it does not want the collapse of the regime in Pyongyang if that leads to a chaotic power vacuum, possibly filled by the US and its allies.
North Korea is thought to have a handful of rudimentary nuclear bombs and has spent decades trying to perfect a multistage, long-range missile to eventually carry smaller versions of those bombs.
It's unclear whether North Korea has achieved the technology needed to manufacture a miniaturised nuclear warhead that could fit on a long-range missile capable of hitting the United States.