OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE: The US general who oversees America’s nuclear forces said on Thursday he was making the assumption that North Korea did, in fact, test a hydrogen bomb on September 3, crossing a key threshold in its weapons development efforts.
Although Pyongyang immediately claimed it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, the United States had previously declined to characterize it.
Air Force General John Hyten — the head of the US military’s Strategic Command — however, said he had a responsibility, as a military officer responsible for responding to the test, to assume that it was a hydrogen bomb, based on the size of the blast.
“I‘m assuming it was a hydrogen bomb. I have to make that assumption as a military officer,” Hyten told a small group of reporters who were accompanying US Defense Secretary Jim Mattie on a trip to Hyten’s headquarters in Nebraska.
“I‘m not a nuclear scientist, so I can’t tell you this is how it worked, this is what the bomb was. […] But I can tell you the size that we observed and saw tends to me to indicate that it was a hydrogen bomb and I have to figure out what the right response is with our allies as to that kind of event.”
The North Korean nuclear test — its sixth and, by far, most powerful — prompted the UN Security Council to step up sanctions.
It followed a series of North Korean missile tests, including one that flew over Japan and another that the US assessed to be an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM).
South Korea’s military said shortly after Hyten’s remarks that North Korea fired an unidentified missile eastward from the Sunan District in Pyongyang — its capital.
A hydrogen bomb usually uses a primary atomic bomb to trigger a secondary, much larger explosion. Such a weapon, with the first stage based on nuclear fission — splitting atoms — and the second, on nuclear fusion, produces a blast that is much more power than traditional atomic bombs or “pure fission” devices.
“The sheer destruction and damage that you can create with a weapon that size is, significantly, of a concern,” Hyten said.
Hyten said that despite the nuclear and missile tests, North Korea still had not demonstrated that it had a reliable ICBM that could deliver a nuclear warhead.
But he noted it was only a matter of time before its scientists achieved that, given the pace of testing.
“It’s just a matter of when, not if,” he said, adding it could be months or years.
Experts doubt that President Donald Trump, like his predecessors, will be able to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear program through economic or diplomatic pressure.
Hyten — who would command US forces in a nuclear war — expressed confidence in the US nuclear deterrent. “Do we have the ability to deter North Korea from developing capabilities that could potentially threaten us? That’s a different question,” he said.
“But do I, US Strategic Command, have the ability for the United States to deter an adversary from attacking the United States with nuclear weapons? Yes. Because they know the response is going to be the destruction of their entire nation.”
“Matthew 24:6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 24:7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 24:8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
“Revelation 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.”