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North Korea reportedly preparing new missile launch after H-bomb detonation

South Korea has activated the THAAD defence system; China, Russia and US have made statements.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

South Korean officials say they have detected North Korea preparing for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch – just one day after claiming to have detonated a miniature hydrogen bomb.

North Korean state media later confirmed the detonation, saying it was an H-bomb that could be loaded onto a long-range missile. Chinese officials are reportedly conducting emergency radiation testing along the shared border – seismologists on Sunday tracked earth tremors that produced a magnitude of 6.3.

The news broke as diplomatic action was taking place in response to last week’s missile launch over the Japanese island of Hokkaido. That ballistic missile broke into three pieces before falling into the sea, with no action taken by the Japanese government to shoot it down.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday evening to say a strong UN resolution is needed; an emergency meeting has been called by the U.S. and other countries later today in New York.

Both China and Russia have said that talks are the only way to reach a solution – South Korea however has not spoken to the North since the H-bomb was detonated. South Korean president Moon Jae-In, who took office pledging peace efforts, has stated new UN sanctions should “completely isolate North Korea”.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin echoed this sentiment, saying yesterday that his department was taking steps to “cut off North Korea economically”. Such sanctions would impact China the most, whose purchases account for 90% of the North’s exports.

“I’m going to draft a sanctions package and send it to the president for his strong consideration that anybody that wants to do trade or business with them will be prevented from doing trade or business with us.”

– US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

The South Korean defence ministry has said it would temporarily deploy four more launchers of the U.S. installed THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence) missile defence system – there are two launchers already in place at the Seongju site, south of Seoul. This as well as a conditional approval from the Environment Ministry on the necessary administration will allow for full deployment of THAAD, which has seen strong opposition from China and Russia.

U.S. president Donald Trump’s tweet regarding South Korea’s “appeasement” approach seems to be a sign of further defensive maneuvers; the chairmen of both countries’ joint chiefs of staff have “agreed to prepare a South Korea-US military counteraction and to put it into action at the earliest date.”

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