On January 6th, 2016, The US Geological Survey reported a 5.1 magnitude seismic event permeating from a nuclear test site in North Korea. The North Korean media quickly reported the event as its first successful hydrogen bomb test. Third parties doubted this claim, instead believing they had created a much less powerful fission bomb.
In early February North Korea announced to the International Maritime Organization that it plans to launch a satellite into space sometime between February 8 and the 25th. The launch ended up taking place on the 7th and was reported as a success by the Government.
Early on the satellite was reportedly “tumbling” through space while in a stable orbit and incapable of transmitting data back to Earth, a satellite they launched in 2012 ended in a similar way. A US officials said on Tuesday that they had corrected the error and the satellite was no longer “tumbling”, though not believed to be transmitting.
Last September North Korea announced it had resumed operations at its main reactor facility, which had been the country’s source of plutonium for its weapons program. US Intelligence Chief, James Clapper, recently stated that the reactor had been active long enough to begin extraction of plutonium “within a matter of weeks to months.”
Concerns have been raised that the satellite launch was a cover to test long-range missile technology. Missile experts however believe that the rocket was not a far advancement from the one used in 2012 and may be years away from being long-ranged. The director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency told reporters that, though the launch was concerning, it cannot be considered a long-range missile test. He also said that the current US missile defence systems could deal with such a threat.