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North Korea’s H-bomb test was political gesture, not military need

January 14, 2016, 18:52 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

MOSCOW, January 14. /TASS/. Hydrogen bomb explosion which, North Korea claims, was carried out successfully days ago had political rather than purely military reasons behind, Russian experts say. Whatever the case, though, this move will not only fan tensions between the two Koreas, but also entail harder sanctions against Pyongyang.

The North Korean leadership said it had tested a hydrogen bomb in order to demonstrate its ability to stay firm in the standoff with the United States, which supports South Korea with strategic weapons and conducts military exercises in South Korean territory. North Korea is against "aggressive and provocative" polices by the United States in the Asia-Pacific Region. It hopes that thermonuclear weapons will enable it to maintain peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula, the Minju Choson government-published daily said on Thursday.

The UN Security Council unanimously voted for a statement saying that North Korea’s testing of an H-bomb was a direct violation of all of the SC’s previous resolutions. The UN SC is now going to draft another resolution regarding South Korea and to expand sanctions against Pyongyang.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama held a telephone conversation on January 13 to agree that if North Korea’s H-bomb test were confirmed, tough international reaction must follow, the Kremlin’s press-service said.

"If it turns out to be true, the incident will prove crude violation of the corresponding resolutions by the UN Security Council and should not be left without firm international response," the Kremlin’s press-service said.

Experts in a number of countries doubt whether Pyongyang’s mass media are reliable enough in reporting the latest tests. The Japanese Atomic Energy Commission has said the air samples taken by Japan’s self-defense force planes contained no radioactive substances.

"Throughout last year Kim Jong-un hinted the United States more than once that if joint US-South Korean exercises continued, North Korea would be unable to guarantee it would stage no more nuclear tests," the head of the SCO Eurasian Integration and Development Department at the CIS Studies Institute, Vladimir Yevseyev, has told TASS. "Nevertheless, all calls by North Korea for signing a peace treaty with the United States and for some improvement in relations invariably triggered objections it was all demagogy and propaganda. This explains why there has been such a reaction. Most probably the decision in favor of staging the test was made when the United States and South Korea were holding exercises last August."

Yevseyev doubts it was a full-fledged H-bomb test, though.

"One cannot be certain it was a thermonuclear explosion. It was rather a test of some elements of thermonuclear weapons," he believes.

The motives behind the test, Yevseyev said, were purely political: ""Since the United States makes no response, we will make the test.’ From the military standpoint there was no need for it. It would be more feasible to stage the explosion after the thermonuclear warhead has been created," he argues.

"North Korea will see tighter retaliatory sanctions by the UN Security Council, as well as by the United States, South Korea and Japan," Yevseyev predicts. "The adoption of a UN Security Council resolution is likely to bring about a cooling in relations between North Korea and Russia at the political level. Economic contacts will possibly stay unharmed, but they will certainly not get wider, for which the current situation in Russia is one of the reasons."

Russia, he believes, cannot but support the UN Security Council’s resolution, but it may contribute to easing it somewhat to help Russian businesses, those which had made investment into some projects, to escape from sanctions.

"The way I see it, North Koreans made the test in an attempt to up the ante in the dialogue with the surrounding world, to look more significant and capable of demanding greater concessions," Professor Maksim Bratersky, of the Higher School of Economics, told TASS. "I believe that North Korea has annoyed Moscow somewhat, too. One of the issues that Russia, the United States, Western Europe and Japan have invariably been united on is the impermissibility of nuclear weapons proliferation. North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons is a problem in that sense. The test has hardly improved the situation in Russian-North Korean relations."

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