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By Ryan Pickrell
A high-ranking North Korean defector believes the North intends to test a nuclear bomb over a dozen times larger than anything it has previously tested, but that theory is a bit off.
“The nuclear test which the North is trying to conduct at the Punggye-ri test site will break the country into two pieces,” Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat who defected last year due to his disillusionment with the young dictator Kim Jong-un’s “reign of terror,” told Voice of America Tuesday.
He asserted that the blast would lead to a nuclear apocalypse. “If a massive explosion pollutes the area, and subsequently Pyongyang loses its control over the border areas, a massive defection will take place there,” he added, suggesting that North Korea’s next nuclear test could destabilize the country and topple the regime. While the idea of Kim Jong-un destroying his own regime with his relentless pursuit of bigger and better nuclear weapons may be fun to think about, it is currently unlikely.
Thae’s “astounding” assessment of the situation was based on South Korean media reports that misinterpreted research by Frank Pabian and David Coblentz presented by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
“Thae’s background is in diplomacy, but it is clear that he is not an expert on nuclear testing,” 38 North, a research site run by the U.S.-Korea Institute, explained.
The initial research said that commercial satellite imagery showed extensive tunneling at the Pungye-ri Nuclear Test Site. The larger facilities could support the testing of a nuclear weapon with a yield up to 282 kilotons; however, there is no evidence suggesting that North Korea would attempt a test of a weapon that size.
North Korea’s carried out its fifth nuclear test last September, and the yield was around 20-30 kilotons.
“We believe that if the North Koreans follow the testing patterns of other countries, the next tests — whenever they happen — will be progressively larger, but still in the tens of kilotons,” 38 North noted, adding, “The North Koreans have a tendency to over bury their tests, so it is highly unlikely that there will be a breach of any kind.”
“Sorry Mr. Thae, but perhaps an introductory course at MIT is in order,” the site concluded.