N. Korea says it has developed more-advanced hydrogen bomb

SEOUL, Sept 3 (Reuters) - North Korea said on Sunday it has developed a more advanced nuclear weapon that has "great destructive power" and leader Kim Jong Un inspected a hydrogen bomb that will be loaded on a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The report by North Korea's official KCNA news agency comes amid heightened regional tension following Pyongyang's test launch of two ICBM-class missiles in July that potentially had a range of about 10,000 km (6,200 miles) that could hit many parts of the mainland United States.

RELATED: Countdown to a standoff: A timeline of tension with North Korea

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Countdown to a standoff: A timeline of tension with North Korea
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Countdown to a standoff: A timeline of tension with North Korea

Jan. 6, 2016:

After four years in power, Kim Jong Un says his country can produce a hydrogen bomb, the first step toward a nuclear weapon that could target the United States. The nation tests a device, but Western experts are not convinced it is a genuine hydrogen bomb.

Feb. 7, 2016:

North Korea sends up a satellite. The United States calls this a disguised test of an engine powerful enough to launch an ICBM.

March 9, 2016:

North Korea claims it can miniaturize a nuclear device to fit onto a missile.

June 23, 2016:

North Korea says it has successfully tested an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), with a range of 2,000 to 3,400 miles. Kim Jong Un claims the country can now attack "Americans in the Pacific operation theater," including the territory of Guam.

Sept. 9, 2016:

North Korea conducts its fifth and largest nuclear test on the anniversary of the country's founding. It says it has mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile.

April 15, 2017:

North Korea reveals a new ICBM design, displaying the missiles at a military parade to mark the birthday of founding leader Kim Il Sung. Within three months, the missiles are tested.

July 4, 2017:

North Korea tests an ICBM for the first time, saying it can launch a missile that can reach the continental United States. The missile, Hwasong-14, is tested again three weeks later, this time in a night launch.

Aug. 8, 2017:

North Korea's army threatens to fire missiles towards Guam in an "enveloping fire." The message comes hours after President Donald Trump warns Pyongyang that it will be "met with fire and fury" if North Korea does not stop threatening the United States.

Aug. 23, 2017:

North Korea publishes photographs of Kim beside a diagram of what appears to be a new ICBM. Weapons experts say it will be more powerful than the missiles tested by Pyongyang in July, and could have Washington and New York within range.

Aug 29, 2017:

North Korea fires an intermediate range missile over northern Japan, prompting warnings to residents to take cover. The missile falls into the Pacific Ocean, but sharply raises tensions in the region.

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Under its leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea has pursued work on building nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles that can deliver them at an unprecedented pace, defying U.N. sanctions and international pressure.

Experts and officials have said North Korea could conduct its sixth nuclear test at any time, and that the reclusive country has maintained a readiness at its nuclear test site to conduct another detonation test at any time.

The hydrogen bomb's power is adjustable to hundreds of kilotons and can be detonated at high altitudes, with its indigenously produced components allowing the country to build as many nuclear weapons as it wants, KCNA news agency said.

Kim visited the country's Nuclear Weapons Institute and "watched an H-bomb to be loaded into new ICBM," KCNA said. "All components of the H-bomb were homemade and all the processes ... were put on the Juche basis, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants, he said."

Juche is North Korea's homegrown ruling go-it-alone ideology that is a mix of Marxism and extreme nationalism preached by state founder Kim Il Sung, the current leader's grandfather.

Kim Jong Un "set forth tasks to be fulfilled in the research into nukes," KCNA said, but it made no mention of plans for a sixth nuclear test.

North Korea last year conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests, saying the fourth in January 2016 was a successful hydrogen bomb test, although outside experts questioned whether it was a full-fledged hydrogen bomb.

The fifth nuclear test in September 2016 was measured to be possibly North Korea's biggest detonation ever, but the earthquake it caused was still not believed to be big enough to demonstrate a thermonuclear test.

U.S. officials have told Reuters that while North Korea has had parts in place for a nuclear detonation going back several months, no new activity has been seen recently at its known nuclear test site in Punggye-ri in its northeastern region.

(Reporting by Jack Kim and Soyoung Kim; Editing by Bill Trott and Will Dunham)

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