North Korea announced on Sunday that it had carried out the most powerful nuclear test in its history. After this provocation by Kim Jong-un, America but also China are hesitating about what to do. The UN Security Council will meet urgently on Monday.
From our special correspondent in Seoul, Sebastien Falletti
With the precision of a metronome, Kim Jong-un accelerates his atomic solo rider. On Sunday, at noon sharp, the North Korean "supreme leader" pressed the nuclear button for the fourth time in his reign which began in 2011, testing an H-bomb at the Punggye-ri site. The regime called this sixth attempt in its history a "complete success", during a triumphal announcement made by the star announcer from state television, a ghost on the air for this great event to the glory of the only communist dynasty on the planet. This underground explosion triggered a 6,3 magnitude earthquake and did not inflict any "ecological damage", even boasted Pyongyang, asserting its right to defiance of UN resolutions which prohibit it from any atomic program and ballistics.
This detonation felt as far away as China is ten times more powerful than the previous test conducted in September 2016, according to calculations by seismographs from the US Geological Survey. The estimate is still uncertain, but this great leap forward would greatly increase the power of North Korean atomic weapons, whose previous explosions were equivalent to the Hiroshima bomb. “This would allow them to inflict massive damage. We must assume that what the North Koreans are saying is true and that they are progressing at full speed,” judge Chad O'Carroll, director of the Korea Risk Group, an analysis firm based in Seoul.
The day before, the official daily newspaper of the Workers' Party, the Rodong Sinmun, had unveiled a photo of the young "Marshal" examining a device presented as a hydrogen bomb, capable of being mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) warhead. A double-detonated thermonuclear weapon and with a destructive power far superior to the classic A-bomb. Pyongyang now claims that its devices manufactured according to the technology of "Juché", this national autarkic ideology, are capable of being miniaturized and mounted on an ICBM with "guaranteed credibility". A few hours later, the explosion in Punggye-ri, in the northeast of the country, seemed to confirm this key step in order to reach the Grail of the regime, the possession of a credible strike force.
Western experts are cautious about these triumphant claims, as this underground test keeps its secrets buried, despite sending out 'sniffer' spy planes to search for radioactive leaks that could offer key insights into the real progress of the program. pariah state. “It is impossible to confirm that this is indeed a thermonuclear detonation, but this test must be taken very seriously. This is in line with their previous progress. And that will further increase Kim's confidence,” judge John Nilsson-Wright, an expert at the London think-tank Chatham House.
A few days after the test of a ballistic missile which had flown over Japan, this new step triggers the anger of a powerless international community in the face of the troublemaker. Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, denounced an “absolutely unacceptable” act, a few hours after meeting with President Donald Trump, to reaffirm the American-Japanese alliance.
In Seoul, President Moon Jae-in placed military forces on alert and called on the UN Security Council, which will meet urgently on Monday, to impose new sanctions aimed at completely "isolating" the North. The South Korean leader also asked Trump to deploy "strategic assets" on his territory to deter Pyongyang, whose heavy artillery threatens his capital. Under growing pressure from the conservative camp, which is calling for the return of American atomic weapons to the peninsula, or even the development of a South Korean bomb, the center-left administration is negotiating the regular deployment of American F35 and F22 stealth fighters, with , as a result, massive arms orders from Washington.
China, North Korea's only ally, has also "strongly" condemned the "bad moves" of his protege, promising a flawless application of the sanctions. In France, President Emmanuel Macron called on the international community "to be very firm".
But the chancelleries waited anxiously on Sunday for the reaction of Donald Trump who had promised the "Fire and Wrath" to the dictator in case of atomic provocation, last month. Captured by storm Harvey, the "commander in chief" split laconic tweets denouncing a "rogue state", pointing to China's lack of commitment and evoking a cessation of trade with any country doing business with Pyongyang. Like a broken record. “This test further narrows his options. Kim demonstrates that he knows how to take calculated risks, much more than his father”, judges Nilsson-Wright.
While Kim Jong-il had played the bomb as a negotiating card until his death in 2011, his son accelerated the atomic and ballistic program, multiplying tests, in particular of ICBMs, this year, ignoring the warnings from the White House. “The campaign is coming to an end soon. They're going to conduct one or two more missile tests to collect data. Then they will be ready to negotiate from a position of strength by demanding recognition of their nuclear power status like Pakistan or India,” predicts O'Carroll. A requirement deemed unacceptable in Washington, where the hawks in favor of a preventive strike are in ambush.
Source: Le Figaro Premium – Global shock wave after the North Korean nuclear test