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Terrorism & Security

North Korea claims successful nuclear fusion test

Turning nuclear fusion into a viable energy source has long eluded the world, but North Korea on Wednesday claimed success. Analysts are dubious and say the claim likely meant for leverage in six-party talks.

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"The North may demand it be allowed to retain its presumed nuclear fusion technology when it is pressed to abandon its existing plutonium-based atomic weapons," Lee Jung-chul, a North Korea specialist at Soongsil University in Seoul, told Yonhap.

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"The technology can be a way for the North to also reserve an option to newly develop bombs after it is denuclearized through the talks," he told the Korean news agency.

Nuclear fusion is the process that occurs within the cores of stars, where lighter elements are combined into a single heavier element with a huge amount of energy as a byproduct. Though nuclear fusion is the process behind the hydrogen bomb, no country has yet successfully harnessed fusion as a power source. Nonetheless, scientists hope that international projects like the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which among others involves every six-nation talk participant except North Korea, will start to bear fruit in the coming decades.

As a result, there is much skepticism about North Korea's claim.

The Daily Telegraph writes that experts "dismissed Pyongyang's claims as propaganda to mark the ongoing birthday celebrations of the country's founder and eternal president Kim Il-sung. "Kim's name means 'to become the sun' and North Korea said its nuclear fusion success was akin to building 'an artificial sun,' " according to The Telegraph.

"Maybe if two suns show up in the sky tomorrow, then people could believe the claim," Kune Y. Suh, a nuclear expert at Seoul National University, told The Telegraph. "This seems highly inaccurate and grossly exaggerated," Suh added to the British newspaper. "They probably conducted some small-scale experiment."

Reuters similarly notes that North Korea's state-controlled media "routinely makes claims about the laws of nature bending to coincide with the birthdays of its founder or his son and current leader, Kim Jong-il, that include the appearance of double rainbows and sunrises so brilliant that frost explodes with the sound of firecrackers."

North Korea is widely known to be unable to generate sufficient power to light its city streets at night.

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