North Korea H-bomb claim: Expert in Colorado knows what it’s like to deal with regime

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DENVER -- Skepticism abounds after North Korea boasted about the "spectacular success" of its first-ever hydrogen bomb test.

While the U.S. doesn't think so, some experts say it's possible the rogue nation conducted a significant nuclear test that didn't involve an H-bomb. A hydrogen bomb is hundreds of times more powerful than an atomic bomb.

One man who dealt with the North Koreans for years and tried reining in their nuclear program lives and works in metro Denver.

Chris Hill heads up DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

But 11 years ago, Hill served as ambassador to the Republic of Korea. Then, for four years led a U.S delegation of the Six Party Talks trying to denuclearize North Korea.

He told us about the difficulty and possible solutions to this nuclear crisis.

As a former ambassador to South Korea, the glare of the media spotlight is nothing compared to convincing North Korea to stop its nuclear testing. "They agreed to do that in September of 2005, but have since backed out on their commitments," he said.

He dealt with the government of Kim Jong-Il at the time who tested two nuclear weapons during his reign.

"The son seems to be even more impetuous and driven to temper tantrums than his father was," says Hill. That makes Wednesday's proclaimed testing of a hydrogen bomb by Jong-Il's son, Kim Jong-un, deadly serious.

"I urge you not to focus too much on the hydrogen bomb issue. They clearly want a hydrogen bomb. Whether they succeeded now or will in the future, the real question is what are we doing to do about this threat?" Hill asked.

He said we must focus on a solution even though it won't be easy to come by.

"They are very difficult to deal with. They are very stubborn. They don’t mind repeating themselves and when they agree, it could be they don’t agree the next day,” Hill said.

He said military action is not the answer, but cooperation with North Korea's biggest ally China is.

"To get to North Korea, you have to go through Beijing. You have to make sure China sees it the way we do and is prepared to take major steps. China will need some assurances that we are not looking to create a strategic advantage for the U.S. in the region,” said Hill.

Those steps include economic pressure through sanctions. But he said we have to do more, especially with so much at stake.

“This is someone whose judgement you can’t rely on. We are taking one of the world's most dangerous weapons and having them in the hands of one of the most irresponsible leaders," he said.

Hill predicts over the next few weeks, we'll see a deployment in that region of American missile defenses that can shoot down rockets, if necessary.

Nuclear test experts said it will be a few days or weeks before we know for sure whether North Korea actually detonated a hydrogen bomb.