North Korean nuclear test: Spy agencies scrounge for details
This lack of scientific evidence suggests that key questions may remain unanswered about the type of fissile material used in the test, which was detected by seismic sensors. It also leaves unaddressed questions about how far the North has advanced in its bomb design.
After the test, the U.S. Air Force Technical Applications Center in Florida dispatched WC-135 "sniffer" airplanes to look for traces of gas residue that could offer clues to the device's design, but those efforts apparently turned up empty, the officials said.
An Air Force spokesperson confirmed that the planes were dispatched but said no results from the missions could be released. A U.S. intelligence official said analysis from the tests "was continuing."
Based on seismic evidence, both officials and private experts say there is little doubt that the North Korean device was several times more powerful than those tested in 2006 and 2009.
While estimates of the explosive power of the latest test vary widely, most officials and experts estimate it was at least five kilotons, which is smaller than the power of the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in World War Two.
In a statement about the test issued through its official news agency, North Korea declared that it had used "a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with
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