By Foster Klug and Hyung-Jin Kim, AP
SEOUL–In response to North Korea’s latest nuclear test, South Korea on Thursday announced it would resume cross-border propaganda broadcasts that Pyongyang considers an act of war. Seoul also began talks with Washington that could see the arrival of nuclear-powered U.S. submarines and warplanes to the Korean Peninsula.
From Seoul to Washington, Beijing to the United Nations, world powers are looking at ways to punish Pyongyang for the test of what it called a new and powerful hydrogen bomb.
The loudspeaker broadcasts, which will start Friday, believed to be the birthday of young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, are certain to infuriate authoritarian Pyongyang because they are meant to raise questions in North Korean minds about the infallibility of the ruling Kim family. South Korea stopped earlier broadcasts after it agreed with Pyongyang in late August on a package of measures aimed at easing animosities that had the rivals threatening war.
Experts, meanwhile, are trying to uncover more details about the detonation that drew worldwide skepticism and condemnation.
It may take weeks or longer to confirm or refute the North’s claim that it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, which would mark a major and unanticipated advance for its still-limited nuclear arsenal. Even a test of an atomic bomb, a less sophisticated and less powerful weapon, would push its scientists and engineers closer to their goal of building a nuclear warhead small enough to place on a missile that can reach the U.S. mainland.
Statements from the White House said President Barack Obama had spoken to South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. The statements said the countries “agreed to work together to forge a united and strong international response to North Korea’s latest reckless behavior.”
Obama reaffirmed the “unshakeable U.S. commitment” to the security of South Korea and Japan, according to the statements.
Park’s office said she also spoke with Abe over the phone and that they vowed cooperation to ensure that the U.N. Security Council imposes strong and effective measures against the North.
South Korean and U.S. military leaders also discussed the deployment of U.S. “strategic assets” in the wake of the North’s test, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Thursday.
Ministry officials refused to elaborate about what U.S. military assets were under consideration, but they likely refer to B-52 bombers, F-22 stealth fighters and nuclear-powered submarines.
When animosities sharply rose in the spring of 2013 following North Korea’s third nuclear test, the U.S. took the unusual step of sending its most powerful warplanes — B-2 stealth bombers, F-22 stealth fighters and B-52 bombers — to drills with South Korea in a show of force. B-2 and B-52 bombers are capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
The U.N. Security Council held an emergency session and pledged to swiftly pursue new sanctions against North Korea, saying its test was a ‘clear violation’ of previous U.N. resolutions.