North Korea on Sunday conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, which it said was of an advanced hydrogen bomb for a long-range missile, prompting the threat of a “massive” military response from the United States if it or its allies are threatened.
Speaking outside the White House after meeting with President Donald Trump and his national security team, U.S. Defence Secretary said Trump asked to be briefed on all available military options.
Trump earlier in the day refused to rule out military action and threatened to cut off trade with any country doing business with Pyongyang.
The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to meet on Monday to discuss the nuclear test. Mattis said the members of the council “remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
In a series of early morning tweets, the president also appeared to rebuke ally South Korea, which faces an existential threat from North Korea’s nuclear program.
Trump appeared to be blaming South Korea for a policy it abandoned years ago of trying to soften North Korea’s posture through economic aid.
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has argued for continuing dialogue with its neighbor over its nuclear program, while also supporting international sanctions.
Reports that the United States is considering pulling out of its trade deal with South Korea has also ratcheted up tensions with the country.
A former senior State Department official criticized Trump for accusing South Korea of appeasement.
North Korea, which carries out its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions, said on state television that the hydrogen bomb test ordered by leader Kim Jong Un had been a “perfect success.”
The bomb was designed to be mounted on its newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, the North said.
The test had registered with international seismic agencies as a man-made earthquake near a test site. Japanese and South Korean officials said the tremor was about 10 times more powerful than the one picked up after North Korea’s last nuclear test a year ago.
After weeks of profound tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program, the size and scope of the latest test set off a new round of diplomatic hand-wringing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met on the sidelines of a BRICS summit in China, agreed to “appropriately deal” with North Korea’s nuclear test, the Xinhua news agency reported.
As North Korea’s sole major ally, China said it strongly condemned the nuclear test and urged Pyongyang to stop its “wrong” actions.
The U.S. president has previously vowed to stop North Korea developing nuclear weapons and said he would unleash “fire and fury” on the country if it threatened U.S. territory.
Roy Blunt, a Republican senator and a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, backed Trump’s fiery rhetoric on Sunday.
There was no independent confirmation that the detonation was a hydrogen bomb rather than a less powerful atomic device, but Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo could not rule out such a possibility.
Experts who studied the impact of the earthquake, which the U.S. Geological Survey measured at magnitude 6.3, said there was enough strong evidence to suggest the reclusive state had either developed a hydrogen bomb or was getting very close.
Under third-generation leader Kim, North Korea has been pursuing a nuclear device small and light enough to fit on a long-range ballistic missile, without affecting its range and making it capable of surviving re-entry.
The test comes amid heightened regional tension following Pyongyang’s two tests of ICBMs in July that potentially could fly about 10,000 km (6,200 miles), putting many parts of the U.S. mainland within range.
During the test, people in the Chinese city of Yanji on the North Korean border said they felt a tremor that lasted roughly 10 seconds, followed by an aftershock.
KCNA said North Korea “recently succeeded” in making a more advanced hydrogen bomb.
Source: International News Agencies