At 10 in the morning on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey registered a 5.1 magnitude seismic event in the northern region of perhaps the most reclusive nation on earth, North Korea. Was it an earthquake? An explosion? Hours later, a statement from the nation's leader Kim Jong Un provided an answer: it was a hydrogen bomb test—or so they claimed.

"The jury is still out on the veracity, or truthiness, of what North Korea is claiming at this stage," said Juliette Kayyem, homeland security expert and host of the "Security Mom" podcast.

But if it is true, Kayyem continued, "This is scary stuff because a hydrogen bomb in terms of magnitude is so great."

Part of what makes it scary is the fact that the diplomatic options available to the United States to mitigate the potential threat are so limited, she said.

"There's no carrot-and-stick because we have no trade with them. There's no law enforcement action because we have no presence there," Kayyem explained. "Every tool of diplomacy we use with, say, Iran or other enemies, that we used with Cuba that eventually led to the détente."

"There's no pathway to a détente," she continued, "because there's no path." 

For that reason, the U.S. will be dependent mostly on China to handle the situation.

"We're completely dependent on China," she said. "But the good news is: China is not happy."

 To hear more from homeland security expert Juliette Kayyem, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.