.. or so they claim. But do they really? The highly secretive dictatorship has made false claims before about its military might but with its desire for Nuclear Weapons could it actually be true that North Korea does indeed have the H-Bomb?
The claim that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK] (to give it its preferred name) made the claim via its State Media last Thursday seemingly in response to a highly respected UN Human Rights official saying that it is “essential” that the North Korea leadership be referred to the International Criminal Court for human rights offences.
But we know they have nuclear weapons, why is everyone so skeptical?
Pyongyang has built and tested nuclear bombs, we know this, it’s a fact however they are (for want of a better word) conventional atomic weapons not thermonuclear devices.
Atomic Bombs release their energy through a fissile reaction, they are known as Fission bombs. Basically a large unstable radioactive element (plutonium or uranium) breaks down into smaller atoms (splitting the atom) which in turn release neutrons to remain stable. In a normal environment this is harmless but in the bomb the fuel is surrounded by TNT (or some other high explosive) and this when exploded causes the element to be tightly packed meaning the neutrons can’t escape, resulting in mass breakdown that happens in a fraction of a second and releases massive amounts of energy.
Hydrogen Bombs are a bit smarter than that. Their energy comes from fusing of Hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium. They are often referred as Fission-Fusion-Fission or Thermonuclear Bombs. When the hydrogen isotopes are fused they produce helium. The core of the bomb has massive number of hydrogen isotopes and fusion is triggered by conventional fission devices that are in the outer core of the bomb. As these enter fission they release neutrons and x-rays from the Uranium. This in turns creates massive core temperatures within the hydrogen section which creates more fission reactions increasing the yield of the bomb.
Although that is a basic guide to the weapons, you can see that a Hydrogen bomb is a lot more complex than an Atomic bomb. This means that for Pyongyang to have a hydrogen bomb they would have had to make a huge leap in technology which for a country that has built a handful of Atomic bombs it is quite hard to believe.
Atomic Friend or Nuclear Foe
They have friends don’t they?
They do indeed, not many granted but one or two are fairly influential. Their biggest ally is China and China does possess Thermonuclear weapons so, could in theory have helped Kim Jong Un in his quest for powerful weapons and whilst China has strong trade links with the Kin Jong Un’s sworn enemy, America, it is also has an inherent hatred of the Western World being the last great communist stronghold.
China however sees North Korea as the petulant child that is always getting itself into trouble and dragging it into it so it is very unlikely that it would help Kim Jong Un to obtain these weapons and if it did, would bring world-wide condemnation.
So do they or don’t they?
To put it bluntly, No, they don’t. North Korea doesn’t possess the resources or technical ability to build a thermonuclear device and the claim is just rhetoric in line with the Pyongyang’s policy of “you scared of us, we have big weapon, you leave us alone” policy against their “enemies” which are primarily South Korea (which they are still technically at war with) and America, because they are the South’s greatest ally.
What should not be ignored though is North Korea’s willingness and desire to create or obtain such a weapon and the biggest worry of all? They are just crazy enough to use one!