Pyongyang: North Korea on Friday said it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country, with leader Kim Jong Un promising to make Trump pay dearly for his threats.
Kim did not specify what action he would take against the United States or Trump, whom he called a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” in the latest bout of insults the two leaders have traded.
South Korea said it was the first direct statement of its kind by a North Korean leader. However, Kim’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, said North Korea could consider a hydrogen bomb test of an unprecedented scale over the Pacific Ocean. Ri told reporters in New York he did not know Kim’s exact thoughts.
Japan, the only country ever to suffer an atomic attack, described the threat as “totally unacceptable”.
The U.S. president, who has not shrunk from fighting fire with fire in his rhetoric on North Korea, sent another message Friday on Twitter.
“Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before,” Trump said, a day after announcing additional sanctions on Pyongyang.
Trump said in his first address to the United Nations on Tuesday he would “totally destroy” North Korea, a country of 26 million people, if it threatened the United States and its allies, and called Kim a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.
Kim said the North would consider the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the United States and that Trump’s comments had confirmed his own nuclear program was “the correct path”.
Pyongyang conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test on Sept. 3 and has launched dozens of missiles this year as it accelerates a program aimed at enabling it to target the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile.
“I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” Kim said in the statement on the KCNA state news agency.
Asked about the North Korean hydrogen bomb threat, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told ABC that diplomatic efforts will continue but all military options were still on the table.
“We are quite challenged” with the escalating rhetoric, he said, but hoped increased sanctions and “voices from every corner of the world” would help lead Kim to talks.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the United States is taking Kim’s threat seriously. Such a test would be a “game-changer” if North Korea actually did it, the official said.
But the official said there were questions about Pyongyang’s technical capabilities and Washington does not give “too much credence” to Pyongyang taking such action. “There’s a certain amount of bluster that’s taken for granted when you’re dealing with North Korea,” the official told Reuters.