North Korea hasn’t increased ‘technical capability’ after nuclear test – US

© Kim Kyung-Hoon
Washington believes North Korea has not increased its technical capability as a result of its January 6 nuclear test, the head of the US Missile Defense Agency said. However, he said that the US continues to “watch it closely.”

"I would assess that their technical capability has not increased," Vice Admiral James Syring said after speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on his agency’s plans for the future.

"That said, everything they're doing continues to be alarming and provoking," Syring continued, according to South Korean Yonhap news agency. "And every step that we've taken with the program I briefed and our actions every day are vitally important to stay ahead of that threat. We continue to watch it closely and continue to watch its actions with scrutiny."

Syring has not given any details regarding what he based his assessment on. When asked whether North Korea’s underground nuclear test would affect the US Missile Defense Agency program, he said: "There was no change before, there is no change now. We certainly watch all that testing and if it was warranted, you would see our program change. I believe we're absolutely on the right path to stay ahead of that threat.”

Last week, Pyongyang claimed it was ready to detonate a hydrogen bomb “capable of wiping out the whole territory of the US all at once,” adding that its January 6 test “was neither to ‘threaten’ anyone nor to ‘provoke’ someone for a certain purpose.”

North Korea has been repeatedly stressing the necessity of developing a nuclear weapon to stave off US interference in North Korean affairs, and a potential invasion by Washington.

On January 16, Pyongyang issued another statement addressing the US, in which it laid out conditions for stopping its nuclear tests. The “Hermit Kingdom” demanded the US halt “joint military exercises” with South Korea.

In August, 2015, North Korea warned the US it would “respond accordingly” if Washington did not cancel military exercises with Seoul. However, Washington said it had no plans to stop the drills and wanted to maintain its commitments to South Korea, which it proved by deploying a strategic B-52 bomber for a low altitude demonstrative flight over South Korea four days after the North’s test.

On Tuesday, Vice Admiral Syring again stressed that the US continues “to work with South Korea on a wide range of potential capabilities.”

Pyongyang said it carried out a hydrogen bomb test on January 6, though what exactly was tested remains uncertain. The fact that some blast did take place was confirmed by various independent agencies, prompting condemnation from the UN Security Council and North Korea’s neighbors.

READ MORE:UN Security Council condemns N. Korea nuclear test, starts work on 'further measures'  

Speaking to RT in the wake of Pyongyang’s test, former US Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson said he believed that Pyongyang “hyped things up to get attention” when it said that it really tested an H-bomb.

“Nonetheless it is worrisome that they refuse to engage in the dialogue with the United States, with the countries surrounding them,” Richardson told RT’s Larry King, adding that the US needs “a new diplomacy towards North Korea.”

North Korea first declared that it created a nuclear bomb in 2005. Since then, Pyongyang has conducted four known underground tests, including the alleged recent test. The first, conducted in 2006 at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site in the northeast of the country, contained five to 10 kilotons of explosives. It was recorded by seismic stations in Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

The second and third tests were conducted in May 2009 and January 2013, increasing the power of the devices tested by 10 to 20 kilotons of TNT each. North Korea’s 2013 test triggered sanctions from the UN Security Council, which put restrictions on the county’s banking, trade and travel immediately.