- A senior North Korean official reportedly repeated the country’s threat to conduct the “strongest hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean.”
- The official likely meant launching a nuclear missile and having it detonate over the ocean, which could kill many and would likely pollute the environment for generations.
- The US may choose to strike North Korea to prevent such a test, experts say.
North Korea has previously threatened to detonate a nuclear bomb above ground and has now repeated that threat and demanded the US take it “literally,” according to CNN’s Will Ripley.
Ripley quoted a senior North Korean official as saying its threat to conduct the “strongest hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean” should be taken at face value.
Experts assessed this threat to mean that North Korea would fire a missile with a live nuclear bomb over the Pacific and detonate in the atmosphere above the ocean.
Such a test could have potentially devastating nuclear and political fallout, possibly killing civilians, poisoning waters, or even knocking out electrical infrastructure.
“If North Korea does do an atmospheric test, it really does change the game,” Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute and a managing editor at 38 North, previously told Business Insider.
An atmospheric test could be so dangerous and provocative, it may even prompt the US to preemptively strike to prevent such a test.
Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously told Business Insider that an atmospheric test may elicit a kinetic US response.
“If North Korea has a ballistic missile on a launchpad that we think is armed with a nuclear warhead,” then the US could seek to eliminate that one single missile, Glaser said.
“But even a strike on a missile on a launchpad could result in retaliation.”
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