The Current

North Korea's alleged H-bomb test prompts debate on use of sanctions

Whether it's a true H-bomb, North Korea has definitely dropped a bomb with its arms-testing announcement. Today we're asking what the nation's real strategic target is, and whether doubling down on pressure and sanctions is the best way to respond.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un blamed South Korea for increased mistrust in a New Year speech Friday, after a year of heightened tension between the rival countries. (Reuters/Kyodo )

Sabre-rattling from North Korea is nothing new, but the rogue nation's announcement this week was truly bombastic. 

A hydrogen bomb, according to official state accounts, had been tested and was – quote – a "spectacular success."

If true, that would mean it had launched a bomb much more potent than a conventional nuclear weapon.

But according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest, that is a big IF.

Bradley Martin was an Asia correspondent for several decades, and he is the author of "Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty." We reached him in Iowa City, Iowa, to help us make sense of all this.

People in Pyongyang watch a broadcasting of the North Korean government's announcement of a 'miniaturized' hydrogen bomb test, which officials called a 'perfect success.' Outside experts have been skeptical about North Korean claims about H-bombs, which are much more difficult to make than atomic bombs. (Kyodo/Reuters)

H-bomb or not, within hours of North Korea's announcement, the United Nations Security Council had fired back, promising very real new sanctions against the country.

Timeline of North Korea's nuclear history

And similar calls echoed through Washington where politicians from both parties called for even more pressure to be applied to the already isolated regime.

Mike Bassett is a North Korea watcher who writes the blog Bipolar Peninsula, and consults on Korean reunification. He was in our Washington studio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli and Karin Marley.