North Korean KCNA news agency claimed the country’s recently acquired hydrogen bomb is capable of “wiping out the whole territory of the U.S. all at once,” reports RT. A hydrogen bomb uses nuclear fusion, or the merging of atoms, to unleash energy and explodes with destructive force hundreds of times more powerful than an atomic bomb.
The claim has been met with skepticism, as U.S. analysts assert that North Korea’s nuclear program is not advanced enough to develop and test a weapon with that level of destructive power. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been claiming nuclear capability for North Korea since 2003, and verified nuclear tests were conducted in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
On Dec. 10, North Korea announced it had added a hydrogen bomb to its nuclear arsenal, a claim that was met with widespread condemnation from the international community, according to CNN. Despite a lack of verifiable evidence that the country possesses such a weapon, the U.N. Security Council considered referring Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court.
On Jan. 6, the North Korean government claimed it had tested its hydrogen bomb, causing a magnitude 5.1 earthquake 12 miles outside of the city of Sungjibaegam. The reports put its neighbors in the region, primarily South Korea, on high alert; on Jan. 13, South Korean soldiers fired warning shots at a suspected North Korean drone over the Demilitarized Zone that forms the border between the two countries.
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Washington responded to North Korea’s claims by flying a B-52 bomber over South Korea to show support for its ally on Jan. 9, as well as calling for stronger sanctions on the country to deter any chances of nuclear progress.
North Korea is a heavily militarized country with a standing army of 1.2 million active soldiers and 7.7 million reservists, according to CNN. Its nuclear program, which began in the 1950s with assistance from the Soviet Union, progressed slowly for the better part of the 20th century as the country joined and then left the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.