Though GOP Blames Obama, North Korea Developed Its Nuclear Program Under Republicans

CREDIT: AP Photo/Andy Wong

A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard outside the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.

Republican presidential candidates took aim at President Barack Obama, blaming him for failing to reign in North Korea in light of their claims of a hydrogen bomb test. Republicans claim Obama’s demureness is responsible for North Korea’s aggressive actions.

“I have been warning throughout this campaign that North Korea is run by a lunatic who has been expanding his nuclear arsenal while President Obama stood idly by,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also addressed Obama over North Korea on Twitter.

Despite claims to the contrary, strong stances have not always worked in the past against North Korea. Ronald Reagan was in office in 1986 when plutonium was first produced in a North Korean reactor. They continued their program under President George H.W. Bush, producing enough plutonium to make 1-2 bombs.

During Bill Clinton’s presidency, North Korea froze its nuclear production, though it continued testing missiles until deterred by American pressure.

In 2002, President George W. Bush took a strong stance against North Korea by including them in the “Axis of Evil” with Iran and Iraq. A year later, Pyongyang restarted their reactor and by 2005 produced another 15 kg of weapons grade plutonium. In 2006, North Korea is believed to have had between 4 and 13 nuclear bombs and tested a nuclear weapon for the first time.

North Korea claims the latest test out of Punggye-ri was the detonation of a hydrogen bomb, sometimes referred to as a thermonuclear or H bomb, which led to international condemnation. Doubts, however, linger as North Korea is known to exaggerate its military capacity and analysts cast skepticism over the country’s claim. “The initial analysis that’s been conducted…is not consistent with North Korean claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test,” White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said in a press conference on Wednesday.

“We do know something caused a 5.1 magnitude seismic event near the site, and humans were responsible. It was most likely a nuclear weapon … a test,” Robert Beckhusen, Managing editor of the site War is Boring. “Pyongyang certainly claims so. But whether North Korea exploded a hydrogen bomb is uncertain.”

“The seismic data that’s been received indicates that the explosion is probably significantly below what one would expect from an H-bomb test,” Australian nuclear policy and arms control specialist Crispin Rovere, told AFP.