Detonating a nuclear-tipped missile over the Pacific Ocean would be a logical final step by North Korea to prove the success of its weapons programme but would be extremely provocative and carry huge risks, arms control experts said on Friday.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho suggested leader Kim Jong Un was considering testing “an unprecedented scale hydrogen bomb” over the Pacific in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat at the United Nations to “totally destroy” the country.
“It may mean North Korea will fire a warhead-tipped (intermediate range) Hwasong-12 or Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile and blow it up a few hundred kilometres above the Pacific Ocean,” said Yang Uk, a senior researcher at the Korea Defence and Security Forum in Seoul.
Such an atmospheric test would be the first globally since China detonated a device in 1980, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Tests of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles are rarer still. The United States’ only test of an operational ballistic missile with a live warhead was fired from submarine far out in the Pacific Ocean in 1962.
North Korea’s six nuclear tests to date have all been underground, the most recent earlier this month by far its largest.
North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles over Japan’s north Hokkaido region in the past month as part of a series of tests that experts say have illustrated unexpectedly rapid advances.
Source: News agencies