As if the news out of North Korea wasnt bad enough, things might get a lot worse within the next 18 months. We should not be surprised if the Communist dictatorship develops a hydrogen bomb the ultimate atomic weapon with the potential to kill millions of people.

A Defense Department official I spoke to lately on the condition of not exposing his epithet told me it now appears the North Koreans are working to finish developed at an H-bomb, and that they could succeed in as soon as six to 18 months. Such a bomb would be many times more powerful than the atom bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan that led to the end of World War II.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un claimed early last year to have tested an H-bomb, but most experts debunked such allegations, underlining the fact that the North had developed what is called a boosted fission weapon or in laymans words, a most powerful atomic bomb. Nonetheless, reports at the time coming out of South Korea claimed that North Korea was likely one degree away from a hydrogen bomb.

If U.S. missile defenses failed to stop a North Korean H-bomb from landing in our nation’s capital it is able to kill approximately 500,000 people and injure another 900,000. If an H-bomb reached New York City, the death toll could reach over 1.7 million.

When North Korea test-launched a second intercontinental ballistic missile( ICBM) last Friday, it demonstrated beyond a doubt that it has the capability to hit much of the western half of our commonwealth with such a missile.

Some experts even argued that the ICBM tested last week could go as far as Chicago, or with some tweaking, potentially New York City or even Washington , D.C . North Korea proved earlier that it has atomic bombs, by exploding them in tests.

Importantly, some would argue we dont have clear evidence that North Korea has developed an atom bomb small enough to fit on a warhead atop an ICBM. And theres no evidence that North Korea has so far developed a far more powerful hydrogen bomb let alone a miniaturized version that could traveling on top of a missile to reach our shores.

There is also no clear evidence that North Korea has perfected a style to shield a nuclear warhead so it can reenter the atmosphere and reach its target upon reentry. Thats a big obstacle, but surely not insurmountable. America solved the reentry puzzle in 1957 where reference is developed the first ICBMs, so its ridiculous to say-so North Korea couldnt possibly do the same 60 years later.

Hydrogen bombs are heavier than a standard atomic machine, so Kim would potentially need a more advanced missile than what he has tested so far to carry a greater warhead to hit the United States. But unfortunately for us, North Korea seems to be working on such a missile, known as the KN-0 8.

The three-stage KN-0 8 could have the capability to carry a hydrogen bomb over a long range, thanks to its economically more advanced configuration. Some have even argued this is perhaps the next rocket North Korea might test.

So just how dangerous would Pyongyang be with hydrogen bomb?

If U.S. missile defence failed to stop a North Korean H-bomb from landing in our nations capital it is able to kill roughly 500,000 people and injure another 900,000, according to publicly available simulators on the internet developed by experts. My own agency in Washington would likely be vaporized.

If an H-bomb made New York City, the deaths could reach over 1.7 million.

Why think about such frightening scenarios? Because many legislators, defense officials, and experts talk as if these threats is years left as if we still have time to stop Kim from developing nuclear weapons.

The simple fact is this: “were having” running of out street. Yes, Pyongyang might have certain technical riddles to solve, but we need to work under the premise that Kim currently has nuclear weapons that can strike the U.S. homeland.

Considering how many times in the last year North Korea has shocked us developing its deadly nuclear and rocket arsenal faster than anyone expected we simply have no choice but to carefully prepare for the possibility of being attacked by North Koreas atomic weapons.

Unfortunately, theres little chance we can turn back the clock and stimulate North Korea a non-nuclear nation, but at minimum we must stop any further nuclear advances by the North.

Perhaps many people continue to deny what our very eyes keep telling us about North Koreas nuclear and rocket programs for a simple reason: our brains wont allow us to contemplate the frightening prospect.

Its understandable that we dont want to believe a government so brutal to its own people an proscribe government run by a tyrannical ruler who has death camps eerily similar to Nazi Germany is now armed with weapons that can kill millions of Americans, taking its reign of terror global.

Now, to be fair, its hard to believe that Kim would be foolish enough to turn his repeated threats into action and assault the U.S. with atomic or hydrogen warheads mounted on ICBMS. Washington would launch a devastating counterattack that would wipe North Korea off the map. But our leaders would be irresponsible if they fail to take action to protect our nation from such a North Korean ten-strike , no matter how unlikely it seems today.

We must abandon the stick-our-heads-in-the-sand mentality the notion that Pyongyang simply couldnt build nuclear weapons or ICBMs that got us in this mess in the first place.

Denial of what is right in front of us, particularly when it comes to North Korea, is a dangerous play one we must avoid. Denying the possibility of a Northern korean nuclear attack on the United States until some day in the future only invites disaster.

A U.S. assault to knock out North Koreas weapons and nuclear armies would be a dangerous move. Since it already is armed with atomic weapons and a powerful arsenal of conventional weapons, North Korea could respond to a U.S. attempt with a nuclear strike against South Korea, Japan or maybe even our “countries “.

Short of starting a second Korean War, the Trump administration simply has no choice but to spring into action and do all it can to stop or at least dramatically slacken the Northern korean nuclear menace. Our best shot at this would be to do everything we can to take away the financial resources that North Korea needs to develop, exam and deploy hydrogen bombs and even more powerful ICBMs.

Considering the fact that the North Korean economy is one-third the size of Ethiopias, taking away any capital the regime needs would make a nuclear program harder and harder to fund. North Koreas population is already starving, as Kim expends huge sums on weapons instead of meeting the needs of his own people.

The best route to weaken North Koreas economy further, as I have said before, is to go after any entities that are helping the rogue government sidestep international sanctions and create capital illegally. We should also go after those who might be directly or indirectly providing aid to Pyongyangs missile and nuclear programs. And that signifies China will be in the Trump administrations crosshairs, as it should be.

If we can end our refusal of what North Koreas military machine can achieve, we might have a real chance of dramatically slowing down or stopping Kim Jong Un from developing the most dangerous of all nuclear weapons. But feigning it cant happen is not just a bad notion it guarantees it will happen.

Harry J. Kazianis( @grecianformula) is head of defense investigates at the Center for the National Interest, founded by former President Richard M. Nixon. Click here, for more on Mr. Kazianis.

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