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North Korea Tests Largest Nuclear Weapon Yet. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired September 3, 2017 - 04:00   ET


CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR: So our breaking news continues. We're live from CNN headquarters in Atlanta. I'm Cyril Vanier.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us for another hour of our analysis of this very critical story. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: North Korea says it has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. Japan partially confirms that claim. It says an earthquake detected earlier was indeed a nuclear test. Now China, South Korea, and the U.S. haven't gone that far yet, but all say that they did detect seismic activity.

ALLEN: The U.S. Geological Survey says it tracked a 6.3 magnitude tremor. Pyongyang's last nuclear test only triggered a 5.3. Reports of the test come less than one day after Pyongyang said it had a new hydrogen bomb, and issued this picture, purporting to show the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, inspecting the device. State media claimed it can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile.

We're tracking this story from across the region. CNN's Ian Lee is in Seoul, our Will Ripley is in Tokyo for us, chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is in London, and correspondent Andrew Stevens is in China.

Ian, let's begin with you as we begin another hour, to tell us what the reaction has been there in Seoul, South Korea. We haven't heard anything definitive from the United States, but as you've said earlier, Seoul is taking some moves.

IAN LEE, CNN JOURNALIST: That's right, Natalie, and earlier in the day, the National Security Council convened an emergency meeting to discuss this nuclear test. They just convened and released a statement. I'll read some of these points to you.

The first one is they are going to push to further isolate North Korea diplomatically and economically. They're saying they're going to try to do that through the U.N. Security Council, also saying that they're going to show off their military's capabilities of neutralizing North Korea's nuclear infrastructure.

They're also asking for the United States are going to seek deployment of the strongest U.S. tactical military assets to the region. They also say that they're going to reaffirm that North Korea, they're not going to allow North Korea to have a nuclear -- enhanced nuclear program. But as we've seen today, that seems to be very difficult with just the words and show of force, and sanctions, they just can't seem to be able to apply that pressure when you have the two really big announcements today.

The first one being that North Korea is saying that they can miniaturize a nuclear weapon, a hydrogen bomb, and put it on an intercontinental ballistic missile, an ICBM. And then you have this nuclear test which appears to be their largest test to date, which North Korea says is a hydrogen bomb designed to go on top of an ICBM.

You know, Natalie, it really is one thing to develop a nuclear program, and it's another to be able to deliver that nuclear weapon. And we know North Korea has the missiles that are capable of launching an attack in the region and in the United States.

So this is another dangerous step, and that's why you're getting South Korea coming out with these very strong statements. We know that they have been in close contact with the United States, and as well as we're hearing that a phone call between President Moon and President Trump is going to be scheduled for later today.

ALLEN: Yes, that is some strong language, as you say, coming from Seoul there. And it seems though, Ian, the time is up, because all this talk coming from the region there, and the United States, they would not tolerate a North Korea with a nuclear program. They've got there, and they've gotten there more quickly than anyone really imagined, is that correct?

IAN LEE: That's right. When it comes to the miniaturization of a nuclear weapon, and putting it on an ICBM, experts thought it was going to be months if not years away from doing that. But from what we're seeing today, if you take the North Korean's words for it, you know, experts are going to be scrutinizing those pictures and the developments today.

But if you take their word for it, they have that capability now, and there are some other interesting points in that North Korean statement. First off, they're saying that they -- this nuclear program now is homegrown. They don't need any components, any parts from outside the country, they can do it all themselves.

And they also say that they can make as many nuclear weapons as they like, so imagine an assembly line of nuclear weapons, that's what they're saying they have the capability of doing, which is very worrying for the South Koreans, for the Japanese, for the Americans, really for this region that the North Koreans say they have this capability.

ALLEN: Ian Lee for us. Thank you, Ian.

VANIER: Let's check in again with Will Ripley who's monitoring the situation from Tokyo, Japan. He just returned from Pyongyang, North Korea. Will, you know, it was just a few weeks ago that the U.S. pushed a very harsh set of sanctions through the U.N. They were unprecedented in just how tightly they clamped down on the North Korean economy, and their sources of revenue.

And since then, what we've seen is North Korean firing a missile over Japan, and now North Korea conducting its sixth nuclear test. I know it takes time for the sanctions to have some bite, and to have some effect, but clearly what we're seeing is that they are undeterred, and that their military program continues -- they continue to push ahead.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, those U.N. Security Council sanctions, that seventh round of sanctions, unanimously passed, including votes -- yes votes from China and Russia after those two intercontinental ballistic missile launches in July.

We know that sanctions do take a long time. We also know that China has suspended coal imports from North Korea since early this year, significantly cutting a major source of revenue for the North Korean regime led by Kim Jong-un.

And yet despite the halt of buying coal, and then this seventh round of sanctions, not only restricting coal purchases but iron, seafood, other major sources of cash for the North Korean regime also trying to further limit North Korea's access to international financial institutions.

Their access already severely limited, but they've found ways to work around it with fake companies and other schemes to bring in money despite the sanctions. We've seen North Korea essentially become increasingly sophisticated at evading sanctions, increasingly resourceful as we've seen the sanctions increase.

And so to hear the United States and South Korea and Japan talk again about speeding up the enforcement of these sanctions, possibly imposing more sanctions, the response that I got from North Korean officials as recently as last week, and I was just in the country yesterday, I arrived here in Japan last night, they say that sanctions are going to be ineffective, as they have been since their first nuclear test back in 2006.

Since then, they've now conducted six nuclear tests, and this latest test by far their most powerful to date. There was an interesting press release put out by seismologists in Norway. They talked about how the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima here in Japan was estimated to be around 15 kilotons of TNT. The bomb on Nagasaki was around 20 kilotons of TNT.

And these Norwegian seismologists believe that this hydrogen bomb that North Korea has tested, North Korea hasn't put out an estimate of the -- of the yield yet, they believe that this bomb was 120 plus kilotons of TNT, significantly more powerful, and it took 11 minutes for that earthquake in North Korea to reach their monitoring station in Norway.

So this event was so large, this man-made explosion was so large it was felt at dozens of monitoring stations around the world, just to give you an indication of how far North Korea has come, this is dramatically bigger than any explosion they've pulled off.

And then of course reports of a secondary explosion. These were deep underground, in underground tunnels at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the mountainous region near the Chinese border in North Korea. A secondary seismic event is the result of this, 4.6 magnitude after the first event that was 6.3 magnitude.

That secondary event, some analysts are speculating was a collapse as a result of the first nuclear test, if that gives you an indication of just how massive that this -- that this rock underground actually could have collapsed as a result of how big this explosion was.

Even as North Korea insists that radiation was not released in the environment, that's little assurance for the U.S. allies in the region, with sniffer planes being deployed from right here in Japan trying to detect if any radiation has been released, if there's been any other environmental impact as a result of this. Deeply unsettling, and really terrifying for a lot of people who live in this region.

VANIER: Will Ripley in Tokyo, thanks.

ALLEN: Let's go to our chief international correspondent. Christiane Amanpour is in London for us, and Christiane, you were saying earlier that we have new generations now that haven't lived under the threat of nuclear war like many of us that grew up when there was the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia, mutually assured destruction. And here we are, everyone said you can't -- we can't tolerate a nuclear North Korea, but we are here. Talk to us about the significance of this.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well look, it is very, very significant, and it is true that over the last 10 years, 15 years, you've heard very casual comments from many in America, I don't mean just officials, I mean actually just ordinary people who say OK, let's drop a nuclear, let's nuke this, let's nuke that.

The -- the idea of the catastrophic consequences of that kind of action in a large part of the global population, obviously not in the east and in that region, has sort of dissipated after the promise of the fall of the Communist Soviet Union, and the nuclear rapprochement and the attempt to sort of, you know, decrease nuclear weapons and get away from that threat.

So now we have North Korea charging into that space, and presenting the world with a potentially catastrophic picture that hasn't been seen or thought about really since, you know, the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s. That's when the Soviet Union and the United States were arrayed against each other.

So what does this all mean? Everybody has hoped, has said, has analyzed over the last decade or so that there's no way that North Korea would do this, that it couldn't get it, that it couldn't do it, that even if it did, what would it use it for, et cetera.

Well now, it has conducted its sixth nuclear test, and we believe this one to have been yet another hydrogen bomb test with a much more significant result, and a much bigger explosion, plus the added really terrible situation whereby we think, according to the pictures of Kim Jong-un the leader, that they have a miniaturized version of that that they can put on an ICBM, which could reach the United States.

That is a first, and that is incredibly dangerous, and brings this whole thing to a new level. So of course I've been talking to the diplomats who are actually engaging with North Korea, and have been doing so over the past time as much as they possibly can.

The former U.S. Secretary of Defense, William Perry, has visited and has talked to North Koreans for many, many decades. Under the Clinton administration there was a moment where they moved back from the brink with an agreement. Under the Bush administration there was as well. I was there, witnessed it when it happened, when they sort of shuttered their Yongbyon plutonium plant.

Now though, what we have, is a situation where the North Korean officials are telling any American who will listen to them that we will not denuclearize, that our goal is threefold. One, survival of the Kim dynasty. Two, to be taken seriously as an international player and a nuclear power. Three, to grow our economy.

And that's what they've been doing under Kim Jong-un. As imperfect as it is for the rest of the world and for, you know, global international relations, that's what they've been doing. And so what people don't want, and what people fear is that if they're not assured of these issues, there could be a catastrophic blunder.

People do not believe those who've engaged with North Korea, that it is a suicidal regime, but there could be a misstep, there could be a mishap, there could, as I say, be a blunder that could lead to dramatic and awful military consequences.

I talked to another former U.S. CIA analyst, who's also been the last to speak to major North Korean officials, and again they reiterated, why would we give up our nuclear card? We want to ensure the survival of our regime, that is our deterrent, and we need to engage that way.

So they of course want to see a final end to the Korean War. As you know, right now, between the United States and North Korea there's only an armistice. They want to see a final end to it. But you know, there are no good options in diplomacy as well, because on the other side, Americans and others say that when they've entered in negotiations, it's always fallen down on the verification issue, what is North Korea actually really willing to do?

So this is a moment where the United States and its allies have to come up with a coordinated strategy to deal with North Korea, and it's going to have to be negotiation, no matter how unpalatable that is, with some carrots and some sticks. It can't all be sticks, because they've shown that they have a stick of their own now.

ALLEN: Yes, absolutely. They certainly do, and they certainly haven't in any way ever backed down despite threats and sanctions and any efforts at diplomacy. Christiane Amanpour for us in London, we thank you. Let's go now to Andrew Stevens. He's in Chang'an, China, and you've been telling us, Andrew, that we're -- you're about to hear from Xi Jinping as he launches this major conference. Question is, will he use this moment to address what has just happened in North Korea?

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN INTERNATIONAL ASIA-PACIFIC EDITOR: So if anything about the nuclear test or indeed the pictures about that thermonuclear device being attached according to North Korea, to an ICBM missile, he has very obviously and clearly not mentioned that. He wants to keep this conference all about BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa as an economic conference, and he's not going to let it be hijacked if you like by North Korea.

Having said that though, there has been a response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Beijing to the latest nuclear test saying, Beijing saying, and I'll just quote this, is that it remains firmly opposed and strongly condemns this test. It calls on North Korea to stop taking the wrong actions, and says that it is committed to a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

This is the sort of language, Natalie, that we have been hearing in the past from China. It doesn't signal in and of itself any change in China's strategy. We saw it after the launch of that missile, North Korean missile over Japan just a few days ago, which was described by the Japanese prime minister as creating an unprecedented threat to Japan.

China's reaction there was to call on the U.S. and South Korea to stop provoking NorthKorea, and for everybody to talk to each other, to go to the negotiating table. It also reiterated that it doesn't want to see a nuclear Korean peninsula.

The Chinese position, and unless it changes radically, remains, and they stated this out, or they spelled this out very clearly several weeks ago with the full backing of Vladimir Putin, this was just after President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin had met at the Kremlin in early July.

And they say this has to be a dialogue, you have to have North Korea freezing its ballistic missile, the U.S. freezing its military operations, its military drills with South Korea, which so incenses North Korea, stop both of those, and then return to the negotiating table.

China clearly continues to see this as an issue that can only be solved by dialogue and the U.S. is instrumental in that dialogue. China says it is the U.S.' -- it's in the U.S.' court to begin the dialogue, and to reach some sort of agreement on denuclearization. Nothing we've seen so far suggests they're moving away from that position, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, we thank you. Andrew Stevens for us there in China as they begin a major conference. And he was saying earlier that the timing wasn't good for China. North Korea kind of doing this at a time when China was --

VANIER: It's a slap in the face for China.


VANIER: No doubt about that. All right, let's go to Jean Lee now. She joins us from Seoul, South Korea. She's a global fellow with the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, and Jean, I want to pick up where we left off our previous conversation. You're one of those analysts who believe that even though North Korea has been steadfast in its military testing, it can be brought to the negotiating table. So how do you do that?

JEAN LEE, WILSON CENTER, GLOBAL FELLOW: North Korea has made it clear that it has a particular objective. The leader of North Korea made it clear that he had a certain checklist of things he wanted to accomplish when it came to his nuclear program, and he's pretty much checked off the boxes now.

So we'll have to see if that leaves an opening, a window of opportunity here. You've got what you needed, you've got what you said you wanted in order to protect your country and also to boost your position at home, to show that you can defend the country. Now are you ready to talk?

Kim Jong-un has stated that he does want to sit down and negotiate some sort of peace treaty with the United States, that is the ultimate objective. And so we need to keep in mind that that is the long goal here, that is the long-term goal.

It was something that his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, died without accomplishing, his father died without accomplishing it. He wants to accomplish that during his reign. Now what has to happen is a certain period of -- we're going to see, frankly, we're going to see some condemnations from various countries include -- various bodies, probably including the U.N. Security Council.

We are likely to see more sanctions, but that is also part of the tactic toward coming to the negotiating table. The U.S. needs to have something to negotiate with, just like North Korea needs to have something to negotiate with, so I think that we'll see that.

But there needs to be at some point a cooling off period, a period of quiet, a face-saving period, where everybody retreats to a certain point where they can go back to some discussion of dialogue, so hopefully I would like to see that happen, because certainly has somebody who's living here in South Korea, this level of tension is not tenable, and certainly the advancements that North Korea has made has made it so dangerous.

We have missiles flying overhead, over civilian populations, nuclear tests with this massive payload, not to mention not only the threat of an attack, but also the nuclear safety threat, very close to where I'm sitting now. These are things that we can't continue to see going forward.

ALLEN: Well Jean, it will certainly be interesting this new leader, this young leader, what we might hear from him as we learn if the United States and other countries are willing to engage at this point. We thank you for your comments, for joining us.

VANIER: And of course South Koreans, and especially from the capital, Seoul, where Jean was talking from, on the front line if there's ever any confrontation involving North Korea. The announcement of a powerful hydrogen bomb test in North Korea is just the latest in an escalating back and forth between U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Here's President Trump just a few weeks ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury, like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.


ALLEN: Mr. Trump was sharply criticized for that fiery rhetoric but he was not backing down. Listen to what he said two weeks later.


TRUMP: And you see what's going on in North Korea. All of a sudden, I don't know, who knows, but I can tell you what I said, that's not strong enough. Some people said it was too strong, it's not strong enough. But Kim Jong-un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us.


VANIER: Until now, Pyongyang's recent provocations have been missile tests, including one launched over Japan last Tuesday.

ALLEN: Two days later, Mr. Trump warned the U.S. has been talking to North Korea and paying them extortion money for 25 years. Talking is not the answer.

VANIER: Let's bring in Boris Sanchez. He joins us live now from Washington. Boris, there's going to be a moment of reckoning. I mean there has to be. Donald Trump has leveled threats at North Korea saying if they threaten us, they're going to experience fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen before. Now this is a huge provocation, and there's going to be some kind of reckoning, and Donald Trump is going to have to respond to this.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Cyril. All eyes of the world on President Trump this morning, awaiting a response from the White House. We should tell you CNN has reached out to the administration. We've yet to get a response, but we did hear a few moments ago from officials in South Korea.

The chief national security advisor there, Chung Eui-Yong, saying in a pres briefing Sunday that South Korea will use every diplomatic measure possible to isolate North Korea. We also heard that he had an emergency 20-minute phone call with his American counterpart, H.R. McMaster.

So the administration is clearly aware of this test. The president was actually tweeting a few short moments before this test took place, however he was not tweeting about North Korea, he has not tweeted since.

You said it, this is by far the strongest provocation that we've seen from North Korea, and each of the prior ones seemed to follow some aggressive rhetoric from the president. We have heard him use language before that has been contradicted by some even in his own cabinet who prefer a much more diplomatic approach.

But again, we are waiting to see how the president responds to this, by far the strongest nuclear test by North Korea, and the fact that they've now miniaturized a nuclear weapon, making it small enough to fit on an ICBM.

VANIER: All right. Boris Sanchez joining us live from Washington, thank you.

ALLEN: We want to talk more now with James Davis. He joins us from Switzerland, he's the dean at the school of economics and political science at the University of St. Gallen. Professor, thank you so much for joining us.

We've been talking for the past several hours about where this places the world and its response now that North Korea has achieved what the United States and other countries have said they won't tolerate, a nuclear armed North Korea.

JAMES DAVIS, DEAN, SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF ST. GALLEN: Well look, this is a problem we've been trying to deal with for 20 years, at least since the administration of William Clinton we've been trying to prohibit, to stop, to thwart the development of a nuclear armed North Korea.

They've tested before, they've tested again now today. We think they might have now been able to successfully test a hydrogen device, a much more powerful device than those that they've been able to test before. We know they've been developing intercontinental missile technology, and have the ability to shoot those missiles.

Now the next step is of course can they put a warhead on a missile, and have it deliverable with nuclear weapon. That's what we have to try to prohibit. I think the strategy so far has clearly been a failure, and we need to have some new, very creative thinking.

ALLEN: Do you expect that from this administration? Because we've had the cabinet kind of going this way, Tillerson and McMaster and Mr. Trump going the other way, talking about fire and fury that the world has never seen.

DAVIS: Right. The strategy so far has been to threaten North Korea, to try and isolate North Korea, and to try and convince the North Korean dictator that his behavior is leading to more isolation. I think that's obviously part of the equation.

But what we need to do is we need to show the North Korean leader a way forward, a way out of this situation. We don't have much more to offer by way of sanctions. We could of course choose a nuclear strike.

But I think the former advisor to the president, Steven Bannon, had it right when he said until you explain how you then protect Seoul, Korea, the northern part of South Korea from a massive conventional retaliation on the part of the North Koreans, that threat, an American military threat, is not particularly credible.

So I think what we need to do is we need to think about what kinds of incentives we can give the North Korean leader to get him to move out of the strategy that he's been pursuing. One of the things it seems to me that he's really interested in is international recognition.

Now the president has said that if the conditions were correct, he would be willing to meet with the North Korean leader. So I think we need to think about ways of moving this discussion and these negotiations to a point where the president could offer the North Korean leader the kind of recognition that he seems to crave.

ALLEN: Our international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, said that would very likely be unpalatable to this administration, but what else do we have now? The time's up.

DAVIS: Right, it is -- it is, in a certain sense, a second best option, but of course the more realistic options right now are unpalatable as well. Do we really want to have a nuclear exchange with North Korea? I don't think so. Do we want to have a conventional war where thousands, tens of thousands of South Koreans die? I don't think so.

So until somebody comes up with a better option, I think negotiations with the prospect of some kind of a deal where North Korea is able to get the kind of international recognition it seems to crave is the way we're going to have to go.

ALLEN: James Davis, we really appreciate your analysis for us. Thank you for joining us.

VANIER: All right, everyone, stay with us here on CNN. Coming up, after the break, more breaking coverage on North Korea, the latest on a claimed hydrogen bomb test. We'll be live from Asia to London, just ahead.


ALLEN: And welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: And I'm Cyril Vanier, and if you're just joining us, we're following breaking news out of North Korea. The country says it has just successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. China and Japan have partially confirmed that claim, condemning what they call a nuclear test. The U.S. and South Korea haven't gone that far, but say they detected seismic activity.

ALLEN: Reports of the blast come less than one day after Pyongyang said it had a new hydrogen bomb. These photographs right here purport to show the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, inspecting the bomb. State media claim it can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile. That means it can reach the United States.

We are tracking this story across the world. CNN's Ian Lee is in Seoul, our Will Ripley is in Tokyo, he just returned from North Korea yesterday, and chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is in London for us. Ian, we'll begin with you, because you've heard some strong statements after this news from the leadership there in Seoul.

IAN LEE: That's right, Natalie. South Korea convened an emergency session of the National Security Council to discuss these latest developments. They released a statement just a short time ago. Let me bullet point some of the things that came out in that statement.

First they said that they're going to try to push for further isolation of North Korea, both diplomatically and economically, going through the U.N. Security Council. They say they're also going to show off South Korea's military capabilities, and how they would try to neutralize North Korea's nuclear infrastructure.

They also said they're going to try to seek the deployment of the strongest U.S. strategic military assets possible. Now the question is, does that mean nuclear weapons, American nuclear weapons, coming to South Korea? Right now the Blue House says they won't comment, but they say they remain committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Also say they're going to work for stronger cooperation between the United States and South Korea, and they're going to have a phone conversation with U.S. president Donald Trump later today to discuss these developments.

But also they say they reaffirm that they will not allow North Korea to have an enhanced nuclear program, but after today's developments, that seems like that is going to be very difficult to do, Natalie.

ALLEN: Ian Lee for us there in Seoul. Thank, Ian.

VANIER: And let's check in with our Will Ripley monitoring the situation in Tokyo. Will, good to have you with us. You're just back from North Korea as Natalie was saying. Look, there have been unprecedented sanctions on North Korea, and yet they continue their testing, clearly they are undeterred.

RIPLEY: This is one of the most heavily sanctioned countries on the planet, Cyril, and you know, the United States' strategy to intensify the pressure by increasing the sanctions is flawed, certainly in the North Korean view, because they say they have survived very difficult economic conditions, and continue to advance militarily.

You think back to the gray famine of the late 1990's, when hundreds of North Koreans were dying of stavation. This was after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, a series of natural disasters, and economic mismanagement inside that country.

People were starving, and yet the regime stayed firmly in control and continued to launch missiles at that time, and it was just six years later, six or seven years later, that they conducted their first nuclear test. So they were advancing on the military front despite very difficult economic circumstances.

And so North Korean officials told me as recently as last week is that even if China were to cut off the regime economically, which Beijing has given no indication it's willing to do, that they would survive, and that they would cut from many other areas, but they would not cut from their nuclear missile programs.

Because in North Korea's view, playing the long game, they feel that these weapons of mass destruction could give them leverage against a far more powerful adversary, that being the United States, and its many allies around the world.

And so North Korea will continue to move forward, and this nuclear test was clearly a signal from their leader, Kim Jong-un, that he's not afraid of the repercussions, but that he's going to continue developing these weapons, and now they say they have a hydrogen bomb that can fit on an intercontinental ballistic missile, the kind that they tested twice in the month of July, or perhaps even an intermediate range ballistic missile like the one that they tested just this last week, that flew over Hokkaido here in Japan.

VANIER: So Will, in that case, just to be clear, and perhaps I should have started with this, what threat at this stage, at this moment in time, what is the military capability of North Korea, what is the threat that they represent to their neighbors and the rest of the world?

RIPLEY: North Korea's nuclear weapons are only getting more dangerous with each test, and each missile launch, each nuclear test gives their scientists valuable scientific knowledge. But keep in mind North Korea has posed a great danger, certainly to South Korea and regionally here in Japan for a number of years.

They have a tremendous number of conventional weapons pointed directly at Seoul. They could kill thousands of people very quickly if a military confrontation were to break out. They could fire a missile with a conventional warhead, fire it right here in Tokyo.

Whether it could be shot down effectively has yet to be determined. There's a mixed success rate for the missile interceptor systems that are in place here in Japan. And North Korea has not done that. They have not used these conventional weapons, even at times of very significant tension.

The reason why they haven't done that is because these weapons are not, from the North Korean view, designed because they want to attack the United States or South Korea and Japan. They are a deterrent to prevent themselves from being attacked, they are designed to keep the North Korean regime, led by Kim Jong-un, and prior to him his father and his grandfather, designed to keep that regime firmly in control.

And they believe this nuclear deterrent is their key to stability and their key eventually to a seat at the diplomatic table around the world. So just because North Korea's conducted a sixth nuclear test doesn't necessarily mean the world is a more dangerous place now than it was a few hours ago.

It's already been a potentially dangerous situation. Any misstep on either side here could trigger a massive, deadly confrontation. But at least from the North Korean point of view, and I was just there yesterday chatting with government officials about this, they say they don't want a war, and they feel that these kinds of weapons will actually prevent a war, which is counter-intuitive to the view in the rest of the world which views these as highly provocative, reckless actions.

VANIER: Will Ripley, thank you for your update. You'll keep updating us throughout the day on this story. Thanks.

ALLEN: Let's go now to our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour. She's in London. Certainly it's time to consider a reset in the world's approach to North Korea, but Christiane, it's interesting that everyone's been trying to figure out Kim Jong-un since he has taken over the country, and we may have an opportunity to really figure out what he's doing, and why at this point.

AMANPOUR: You know, Natalie, it's an extraordinary character that he has. On the one hand, these reports that he's had his closest relatives, his closest associates machine gunned to death, his own brother VX nerved to death, his own, you know, family and other sort of, you know, people engaged in this sort of war for access, him trying to stamp his very violent stamp on the -- on the head of the regime there in North Korea.

And while on the other hand, relentlessly moving ahead with a highly complex, highly rational, in terms of technology and engineering, development of this nuclear weapons program, and is unfolded step by step as he has said that he intended it to do.

So what to do now? Those were the closest and deepest insights into North Korea, certainly those in the United States, whether it is the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, William Perry, who's been engaging with them ever since the Clinton administration had a deal with them in the late -- in the early '90s, or whether it is former CIA analysts who have recently spoken to high-level North Korean officials, have come to the same conclusion.

And that is that there is no more talk about denuclearizing North Korea, or getting them to give up their nuclear weapons, because that is what they want above all for several reasons they say, to preserve their regime, to preserve the Kim dynasty and preserve the country, to be taken seriously as international players, and they say to grow their economy.

So what are the options? The options are that there has to be some kind of rethink by the United States and its regional allies into how you execute some kind of carrot-and-stick diplomacy to get a deterrent in place.

Because if there's no more way to get a denuclearized Korean peninsula, then there has to be some kind of deterrent and detente so that these weapons are not used, either intentionally or in a blunder towards a catastrophic military confrontation. And that's -- that's the huge task on the plate of those who now have to engage with North Korea in a way that's not just sanctions, but something extra as well.

ALLEN: Yes, because certainly, as you pointed out, but we don't know the leaders so much, Kim Jong-un doesn't want to see the end of his regime, and the annihilation of his country, so one would hope he has no intent of using these weapons, but he certainly has been, you know, sending signals otherwise near Japan, and making the statements about Guam as well. Is that just bluster?

AMANPOUR: Well it's not bluster, because he's been -- he's been doing what he's been doing. Obviously he stepped down in terms of firing them off towards a U.S. territory, but the missiles and the relentless sort of progress and the testing has been continuing. So it is not bluster.

The real question is, is he suicidal, which people say he is not, does not want to see the destruction of his own dynasty, or his own regime, or his own country. And then the next question is, could there be a misadventure? Could there be, you know, a blundering into some kind of confrontation if these continued mixed messages keep getting passed between each side?

So I think that is really the question, you know, how do they read the United -- the United States' intent? How do they read the statements coming out of either the White House or the Pentagon? And this isn't just for this U.S. administration, it's been previous U.S. administrations as well.

What is -- is there a coordinated, strategic, coherent U.S. approach to this incredibly dangerous situation that has developed right now? And remember, President Obama who engaged in so-called strategic patience, where there really wasn't any significant diplomacy during his administration, saw all this, you know, take place, this unfolding and acceleration of their nuclear program in North Korea.

And at the same time, you know, no negotiations were going on. He of course warned President Trump that North Korea, we understand that that was their first conversation, was going to be President Trump's most severe challenge going forward.

And I must say, maybe the North Koreans say they don't want a war, but we have seen these images coming out, these, you know, how they have these sort of heroic Communist style posters where they show, you know, mighty North Korean defenders, you know, firing off missiles, a U.S. flag in shreds, and fire and brimstone, and people sort of cheering and clapping.

I mean all the imagery that goes around this kind of confrontation is out there right now. And that obviously is to -- is to beef up their -- their power, but also, you know, in a way, to condition the people. And that is also very dangerous in terms of messaging inside the country.

ALLEN: Yes, we've seen North Koreans cheering wildly at the success of this program. Christiane Amanpour for us, we thank you so much for your analysis. Thank you.

VANIER: Let's go straight to former CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy, he's in Hong Kong. He's a senior fellow with the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California. He's also the author of the book "Meltdown, the Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis".

So Mike, several things here. One of them is about sanctions. There's been a new set of sanctions on North Korea, that was a few weeks ago. They are the harshest sanctions yet on Pyongyang, but it is still possible to clamp down even further on their economy, for instance clamping down on oil, their main source of revenue, and that would really hurt their military apparatus. Is that, you think, one way of obtaining some kind of -- of curbing North Korea's military testing?

MIKE CHINOY, SENIOR FELLOW, U.S.-CHINA INSTITUTE AT USC: There are a couple of issues with sanctions. The first one is whether or not the international community can agree on tougher sanctions. It's interesting to note that when the U.N. Security Council a few days ago strongly condemned North Korea's missile launch, the one that flew over Japan, both the Russians and the Chinese indicated they were very uncomfortable with sanctions, and the U.N. resolution was not accompanied by any new tougher measures.

The Chinese, who would be central to this, have long been very reluctant to impose really, really tough sanctions because they're fearful that rather than forcing North Korea to change its policy, it could generate instability or perhaps even regime collapse in North Korea, which is something the Chinese want to avoid.

If all of North Korea's oil shipments were cut off, it would certainly hurt, but the question, if you look back over the history, sanctions have hurt North Korea in many ways, but there's very little evidence, however much damage has been caused, that sanctions have actually prompted Pyongyang to change its policy.

And the whole mindset of North Korea is not one in which they're going to say gosh, these sanctions are so tough, well we'll just change our mind and decide to abandon our nuclear program, and come to the table. It doesn't work that way.

Far more likely, if Pyongyang was backed into a corner, that's the one scenario where I could see the North Koreans actually lashing out in anger. Otherwise, I think all of this nuclear missile development, fire-breathing propaganda is designed to deter the United States and anyone else who might think of taking military action against North Korea.

It's the security blanket for the regime. They're not suicidal, they're not crazy, I don't think they will initiate an attack except if they feel absolutely cornered. And one of the dangers of heightened sanctions is they might feel that way.

VANIER: Mike, do you think ultimately the U.S. needs to start accepting the existence of a nuclear armed North Korea?

CHINOY: I think the key thing here is the U.S. needs to talk to North Korea. I think to some degree, a strategy that involved bigger sticks but also bigger carrots is worth examining. And this would not necessarily mean getting into detailed negotiations right off the bat.

But I think it's time for somebody very senior who can speak for the president to go to Pyongyang and sit down and confront the North Koreans with some hard truths about what might happen if the U.S. and North Korea don't back off from the brink.

The problem is that there's no political constituency in Washington now that favors negotiations. The idea of talking to North Korea has been so discredited in the narrative that's taken hold in the media, and in the political world, that it would be very, very hard politically to get something started.

But since sanctions don't work, war is a terrible alternative, you're really only left with trying to find some way to open the door to talk. It's worth noting at the moment the U.S. is making judgments about North Korea based on its military displays, missile launches, nuclear tests, and the overblown propaganda coming from the North Korean state-run media.

The North Koreans are sitting there watching U.S. military deployments and reading Donald Trump's tweets. Neither side has really had any opportunity at a high level to figure out what the other one really wants, and whether there are any grounds to try and bridge this enormous divide before it spirals into something worse.

VANIER: But Mike there actually, there have been some contacts that were reported, not high-level contacts, you're right, but some contacts between the U.S. and North Korea. That's something we'll have to dig into a little later. Mike Chinoy joining us from Hong Kong. Thank you.

ALLEN: Coming up here, more of our coverage on North Korea, the latest on its claimed hydrogen bomb test. We'll talk with one of the people who first detected the seismic activity, coming up here.


ALLEN: We continue to follow the breaking news out of North Korea, the country says it just successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. China and Japan have partially confirmed that claim, condemning what they call a nuclear test.

The U.S. and South Korea have not gone that far, but say they also detected seismic activity. A Norwegian monitoring group says the blast had an estimated explosive yield of 120 kilotons, eight times the strength of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. VANIER: Reports of the blast come less than a day after Pyongyang said it had a new hydrogen bomb. State media claim it can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile.

ALLEN: For more on this, Lassina Zerbo joins us now from Vienna, Austria. He's the executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization. Sir Zerbo, thank you for joining us, and tell us, you have monitoring stations around the world. How did you first detect what had happened?

LASSINA ZERBO, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, CNTBTO: At three-thirty UTC, our international monitoring system or station which comprises 330 facilities around the world, has detected a large seismic event, much larger than what was declared previously by the DTRK in the Korean peninsula.

And magnitude nearly 6 -- 5.9 compared to the one from last time, 2016, that was 5.1. That is clearly an indication that the physics of the event say that it's a much bigger and much larger event than the DTRK has charted this time, and quite concerning.

VANIER: Lassina, what are we looking at from you, what is the science telling you as far as what this is? The reason I ask you of course, is because each time that North Korea claims it has done something, whether it's a nuclear test or a missile test, the surrounding countries, the U.S., Japan, South Korea, then make their own assessment based on the science of what it is. So as far as you're concerned, what is this?

ZERBO: What the science tells us is that we have -- we're dealing with a frequency that is certainly different than the seismology from those who are dealing with earthquake. We talk about 5.9 body wave magnitude, which is much higher than the previous event.

When we say much higher, the physics is telling us that the weapon program is reaching a certainly serious and different level than what it has been so far since 2006.

VANIER: Now there were two separate incidents. There was an earthquake, there was an explosion. Can you tell us about that?

ZERBO: Earthquake and explosion, at this point we characterize as an event, an event, and then we're working into discriminating this event from an earthquake. It certainly doesn't look like an earthquake, but indeed we have two events.

One event at three-thirty UTC, which is a major detection, and then eight minutes, eight-and-a-half minutes later, there was another aftershock that at the same location, that's probably derived from the first big blast.

ALLEN: And talk with us, Lassina, about where the world is now with this situation. North Korea has continuously defied the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, and it has done so yet again.

ZERBO: Yes, North Korea has defied the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, which answering to force is pending, for more than 20 years. I mean we're urging the international community, especially the eight remaining countries, to ratify this treaty so that it's enforced. A treaty enforced will not leave any room for any country to conduct a nuclear test explosion, and this is what we're advocating for so many years.

VANIER: Although Lassina, having said that as far as international relations are concerned, treaties are all well and good, but if there isn't a country or group of countries that can police and enforce the treaty, it doesn't change a whole lot.

ZERBO: Yes, but precisely, with the treaty enforced, we have a mechanism to enforce the law, and it's because the treaty's not enforced that we're sitting in this situation where it goes back and forth from the security council to the different countries.

And I think with the comprehensive test ban treaty enforced, we have an on-site inspection mechanism that kicks in, and then an enforcement law that it's in place effectively, and that doesn't leave any room for people -- for any country to conduct a test in the first place, and that's what we're trying to achieve.

ALLEN: What are you wanting to hear from the United States on this situation?

ZERBO: What I want to hear, not only from the United States, but from the international community as a whole, and for our concern for the eight remaining countries, is that there is time to move on with the comprehensive test ban treaty, and ideally to a moratorium on nuclear testing, as soon as possible.

ALLEN: Lassina Zerbo, we thank you for your comments. Thank you for joining us.

ZERBO: Thank you.

ALLEN: And thank you all for watching our breaking new coverage. There's more ahead. I'm Natalie Allen.

VANIER: And I'm Cyril Vanier. New Day is up next with much more on the breaking news we've been covering, North Korea's sixth and largest nuclear test.