North Korea raised the stakes Sunday, detonating a nuclear device that it claimed was a hydrogen bomb that could be attached to a missile capable of reaching the United States.
North Korea has thus far tested its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles separately. The nukes have detonated deep underground, while the missiles have flown on "fly-ball" trajectories that take them high into space while limiting their range.
But in the wake of the North's most recent underground test, and with rumors of another ballistic missile test coming soon, some experts now fear that a Frigate Bird-type test may be coming.
In May 1962, the submerged USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608) test-fired a Polaris A-2 missile with a live nuclear warhead across the Pacific Ocean toward Christmas Island, 1,700 miles. It was code-named Frigate Bird, the only one the United States ever conducted of any nuclear ballistic missile from launch through detonation. After a 12.5-minute, 1,200-mile (1,900 km) flight, the warhead exploded in the air.
James Acton, a physicist, and co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program had this to say about the Frigate Bird-type test, "That would be the ultimate way for North Korea to prove its capabilities," "I very, very much hope we don't go there."
This is why nuclear weapons and nuclear missiles are usually tested separately. Nuclear weapons are the most powerful devices ever developed. Missiles are giant tubes filled with explosive fuel. Bringing the two together is risky enough. Firing the missile increases the risk considerably.
On Saturday, September 9, North Koreans will celebrate the anniversary of their country's founding, and experts think the country may mark this holiday with a full-range test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Earlier this week it was reported by South Korean media that a North Korean ICBM appeared to be on the move, and CNN reported the South Korean prime minister on Thursday saying that "some believe" a launch Saturday is very possible.
In related news, Dennis Rodman Offers to Help Trump with North Korea.