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January 7, 2016

Did North Korea detonate an H-bomb?

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North Korea announced it successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb nuclear test on Wednesday, raising concern and doubt across the rest of the world.

H-bombs are hundreds of times more powerful than atomic bombs. Both are kinds of nuclear bombs, meaning that the energy comes from nuclear reactions. Atomic bombs use nuclear fission, which splits a bigger atom into two smaller ones; Hydrogen bombs use fusion, which fuses two or more atoms into a bigger one.

If true, this would be the first test of its kind by North Korea, an isolated and antagonistic regime led by “supreme leader” Kim Jong-un.

World powers, including the United States and South Korea, say they are skeptical of whether the bomb was actually a hydrogen bomb.

Condemnation from nations around the world included North Korea’s only major ally, China. The United Nations Security Council said it will take swift action and will work on a new resolution in response to North Korea’s announcement.

This is North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in violation of international law regarding the spread of nuclear weapons.


Key Terms

hydrogen bomb — an extremely powerful bomb whose destructive power comes from the rapid release of energy through nuclear fusion; significantly more powerful than an atom bomb

sanction — a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule

Warm up questions
  1. Where is North Korea?
  2. What do you know about the government of North Korea?
  3. Why are there international laws regarding the building of nuclear weapons?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why does North Korea want nuclear weapons? What purpose does their announcement serve?
  2. Who is most at risk if North Korea has in fact successfully built and tested an H-bomb?
  3. How should the international community respond if it should turn out that North Korea has an H-bomb?
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