North Korea conducts sixth nuclear test, says developed H-bomb

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides guidance on a nuclear weapons program in this undated

It is still too early to determine just what Pyongyang tested, whether an enhanced traditional nuclear weapon, or some small-scale hydrogen bomb, but it is clear that the North has not slowed the pace of its nuclear and missile program despite global sanctions, condemnation and warnings from the United States.

Japan concluded that the tremors detected in North Korea were a nuclear explosion, marking the sixth atomic test by Pyongyang since 2006.

South Korea's weather agency said the artificial quake caused by the explosion was five times to six times stronger than tremors generated by the North's previous five tests.

The "artificial quake" was 9.8 times as powerful as the the last test in September 2016, South Korea's state weather agency said.

Hours earlier, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke to President Trump on the phone about the escalating situation.

The hydrogen bomb report by North Korea's official KCNA news agency comes amid heightened regional tension following Pyongyang's two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in July that potentially could fly about 10,000 km, putting many parts of the mainland United States within range.

It also posed a major test for President Donald Trump, who has bounced between warning he would meet threats from the North with "fire and fury" and urging a diplomatic solution.

There was no independent confirmation of the claims.

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"North Korea's mission is quite clear when it comes to this latest atomic test: to develop a nuclear arsenal that can strike all of Asia and the US homeland", Harry Kazianis, director of defence studies at the conservative Center for the National Interest in Washington, said.

The hydrogen bomb's power is adjustable to hundreds of kilotons and can be detonated at high altitudes, with its indigenously produced components allowing the country to build as many nuclear weapons as it wants, KCNA news agency said. The U.S. Treasury Department will prepare a package of sanctions that would "cut off North Korea economically", said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

"The Nuclear Weapons Research Institute has recently achieved a higher level of research and production of nuclear weapons", in accordance with the country's strategic plan of nuclear weaponization, KCNA said.

The country has for years worked on nuclear miniaturization, which means creating a nuclear warhead small and light enough to be fired over long distances. He urged Pyongyang to heed United Nations demands to stop such testing and mothball its nuclear program, adding that the IAEA "continues to closely follow developments".

The country tested two nuclear weapons a year ago, including one in September close to the country's Foundation Day holiday.

North Korea's nuclear and missile program has made huge strides since Kim rose to power following his father's death in late 2011. The US has not reacted to the apparent test as yet.

In what could be read as a veiled warning of more nuclear tests, Kim underlined the need for scientists to "dynamically conduct the campaign for successfully concluding the final-stage research and development for perfecting the state nuclear force" and "set forth tasks to be fulfilled in the research into nukes".

The two Koreas have shared the world's most heavily fortified border since their war in the early 1950s ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

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