This is a big deal.
A hydrogen bomb like the one North Korea testes uses a smaller and much easier-to-make fission bomb (like the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) to set off a much larger and more powerful fusion bomb. The two coexist in a single, and highly complex package. In terms of power and technical difficulty, what North Korea has done is a bit like upgrading from a vintage Motorola pager to an iPhone 6S.
Here’s more from NBC News:
North Korea’s state-run KCNA news service reported that Kim “made the final decision on January 3 to go ahead with the hydrogen test and accordingly we have conducted hydrogen bomb test at 10 a.m. on January 6 with total success.”
A television anchor announced that Pyongyang had tested a “miniaturized” hydrogen bomb, elevating the country’s “nuclear might to the next level” and providing it with a weapon to defend against the United States and its other enemies. [Emphasis added]
I added the emphasis because the KCNA story indicates (whether true or not) that young Kim Jong-un personally approved the test, which pretty much cements his position (whether he’s the real power or merely the figurehead for a cabal).
Whether or not the weapon was actually miniaturized we don’t and can’t know.
What North Korea lacks is a reliable delivery system for such a weapon — especially if the warhead is not in fact miniaturized. So why build the thing, if they can’t threaten anyone other than themselves with it?
Blackmail. Western cash and foodstuffs in exchange for “good” behavior. “Good” meaning “batstuff crazy in a slightly more predictable and less dangerous way than last week.”
We’ve been forced to play this game with the North Koreans for 25 years now, and they keep raising the stakes.
They just got raised again, bigtime.