Can North Korea's Hydrogen Bomb Reach America? Some Experts Think So
On Sunday, North Korea claimed that it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb compatible with long-range missiles. Science shows that North Korea's alleged hydrogen bomb created a seismic impact eight times greater than that of the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima in World War II, but nonetheless, can North Korea's (supposed) hydrogen bomb reach the U.S.? Some experts say yes.
According to a state-run outlet in North Korea, the hydrogen bomb supposedly tested on Sunday can be outfitted for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICMB). And North Korea may have ICMBs that can reach the U.S. According to the BBC, in July the small totalitarian nation claimed it had successfully launched two ICMBs that could strike the U.S., and experts agreed to that it could at least parts of it. Thus, the next step to developing a nuclear missile would be to miniaturize the country's nuclear technology enough so that a bomb could be strapped onto a missile — which North Korea claimed to have done on Sunday. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, told The Washington Post he highly doubts that North Korea has been able to make a nuclear weapon small enough.
Vipin Narang, a researcher of nuclear technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told The Washington Post that the seismic force caused by North Korea's detonation on Sunday is not to be taken lightly. He called the bomb a “city buster.” “Now, with even relatively inaccurate intercontinental ballistic missile technology, they can destroy the better part of a city with this yield,” Narang told the Post.
Melissa Hanham, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California, told TIME that North Korea has developed missiles that are capable of reaching Chicago or Denver. "It’s getting close to New York," she told TIME back in July. “North Korea wants the ability to target the United States,” Jeffrey Lewis, a researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told Vox. “A thermonuclear weapon does more damage," he added, referring to the hydrogen bomb by another term.
But it is unclear if what North Korea detonated is actually a hydrogen bomb. While experts agreed that the seismic impact of the detonation was very large, they said that this does not necessarily mean the bomb was a hydrogen bomb. “From the seismic signal alone it’s not possible to tell the difference between a conventional atomic explosion and a hydrogen bomb, but when it’s as large as this one, the credibility of the claim that it’s an H-bomb increases dramatically,” Anne Strømmen Lycke at NORSAR, a nuclear test monitoring group based in Norway, told The Guardian.
Nonetheless, American officials are taking this alleged hydrogen bomb test as a credible threat to U.S. security. "North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test," President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday. "Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States."