Can a North Korean Bomb Reach the U.S.?

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Whether or not North Korea detonated a hydrogen bomb or just an atomic bomb -- there’s a big difference in size and killing power -- many experts say that this week’s test brings the rogue nation one step closer to putting a warhead on a ballistic missile, threatening its neighbors and perhaps the United States.

Does N. Korea Have ‘H’ or ‘A’ Bomb?

When the most isolated country in the world threatens a nuclear attack, there’s good reason for concern. North Korea may be off-the-grid globally, but their military manpower under Kim Jong-un is surprisingly strong.

“They are getting better,” said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association in Washington. “They are working toward this goal, and with each test they are making additional progress. The tests they just conducted last night contributed to their understanding and their capability.”

North Korean officials said yesterday they had detonated a hydrogen bomb, a two-step thermonuclear device that uses energy released from the combination of two light atomic nuclei, while an atomic bomb uses the energy released when a heavy atomic nucleus splits, a process known as nuclear fission.

American scientists developed the hydrogen bomb, which was first tested in 1952.

Photos: A Village Made Out Of Bombs

However, White House officials today said they doubted North Korea’s claim. They believe it was more likely an atomic bomb, similar in size to three previous ones tested by North Korea since 2006.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said initial data from various monitoring sources were “not consistent with North Korean claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test.”

Even so, many nuclear arms control experts say the test is worrisome.

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