North Korea conducts 6th nuclear test, confirms Japan

Japan confirmed that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test on Sunday, and registered a formal protest with Pyongyang after a major explosion at the isolated nation’s main test site.

“The government confirms that North Korea conducted a nuclear test after examining information from the weather agency and other information,” Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono told reporters.

He said the government registered a protest with the North Korean embassy in Beijing prior to the confirmation, calling any test “extremely unforgivable”.

Earlier, South Korea’s military had expressed suspicion that North Korea had conducted its sixth nuclear test, after it detected a “strong earthquake.”

The strong tremor was felt hours after Pyongyang claimed that its leader has inspected a hydrogen bomb meant for a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

South Korea’s weather agency and the Joint Chief of Staff said an artificial 5.6 magnitude quake occurred at 12:29 pm local time, in Kilju, northern Hamgyong Province.

The US Geological Survey called the first quake an explosion with a magnitude 6.3.

Shortly after, Yonhap news agency said a second quake was detected with a magnitude 4.6 but South Korea’s weather agency denied another quake occurred.

There was no word from the military in Seoul about the possible second quake.

North Korea conducted its fifth test last year in September. In confirmed, the latest test would mark yet another big step forward in North Korean attempts to obtain a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching deep into the US mainland.

The US State Department had no immediate reaction. South Korea’s presidential office said it will hold a National Security Council meeting chaired by President Moon Jae-in.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year and has since maintained a torrid pace in weapons tests, including flight-testing developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles and flying a powerful mid-range missile over Japan.

Earlier Sunday, photos released by the North Korean government showed Kim talking with his lieutenants as he observed a silver, peanut-shaped device that was apparently the purported thermonuclear weapon destined for an ICBM.

What appeared to be the nose cone of a missile could also be seen near the alleged bomb in one picture, which could not be independently verified and which was taken without outside journalists present. Another photo showed a diagram on the wall behind Kim of a bomb mounted inside a cone.

Aside from the factuality of the North’s claim, the language in its statement seems a strong signal that Pyongyang will soon conduct its sixth nuclear weapon test, which is crucial if North Korean scientists are to fulfil the national goal of an arsenal of viable nuclear ICBMs that can reach the US mainland.

There’s speculation that such a test could come on or around the Sept. 9 anniversary of North Korea’s national founding, something it did last year.

As part of the North’s weapons work, Kim was said by his propaganda mavens to have made a visit to the Nuclear Weapons Institute and inspected a “homemade” H-bomb with “super explosive power” that “is adjustable from tens (of) kiloton to hundreds (of) kiloton.”

North Korea in July conducted its first ever ICBM tests, part of a stunning jump in progress for the country’s nuclear and missile program since Kim rose to power following his father’s death in late 2011.

The North followed its two tests of Hwasong-14 ICBMs, which, when perfected, could target large parts of the United States, by threatening to launch a salvo of its Hwasong-12 intermediate range missiles toward the US Pacific island territory of Guam in August.

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