WASHINGTON – Any threat to the US or its allies will be met with “massive” retaliation, US Defence Secretary James Mattis warned, after North Korea claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb.
Pyongyang said earlier Sunday it had tested a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), shocking its regional neighbours – particularly South Korea and Japan – and provoking worldwide condemnation.
The test at 12:30 pm (0330 GMT) was a “perfect success,” according to North Korean state media. If confirmed, it would be the most powerful device ever tested by North Korea, and mark a significant step forward in the secretive regime’s nuclear capability.
US President Donald Trump was briefed on all possible military options against North Korea during a meeting with his national security team, Mattis said.
“Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming,” Mattis said.
He called on leader Kim Jong Un to heed the UN Security Council, which was to discuss the test Monday, and stressed the US was “not looking to the total annihilation of a country,” but had “many options to do so.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said North Korea’s “nuclear and missile development programmes pose a new level of a grave and immediate threat” and “seriously undermines the peace and security of the region.” The Japanese premier also telephoned with Trump to discuss the claimed test, according to a White House statement issued late Sunday.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson joined Abe in stressing that the moves toward a hydrogen bomb that could fit atop a missile “would unquestionably present a new order of threat.”
Trump – who had in August warned North Korea of unleashing “fire and fury” if it did not stop provoking the US – earlier told reporters “We’ll see” when asked directly whether the US would attack North Korea.
North Korea’s “words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States,” Trump said in a tweet, calling it “a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”
South Korea’s “talk of appeasement” with North Korea will not work, Trump said, adding that Pyongyang will “only understand one thing.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the US was preparing new sanctions to further isolate North Korea, including actions against North Korea’s trading partners.
The European Union said it would also weigh tougher sanctions and South Korea vowed to push for the most powerful sanctions yet at the UN Security Council.
President Moon Jae In said his country would not allow its neighbour to continue to advance its nuclear and missile technologies.
On Monday, South Korea’s military also said it had carried out a combined live-fire exercise targeting the North’s nuclear testing site and involving the Hyunmoo ballistic missile and F-15K fighter jets.
The Hyunmoo surface-to-air missile and the jets’ long-range air-to-ground missile accurately hit targets in the East Sea, according to the news agency Yonhap.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed to “appropriately deal with” North Korea’s nuclear test, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported.
On Sunday, the Norway-based geological monitoring agency NORSAR said the magnitude of the North Korean test was estimated at 5.8 and the explosive yield was approximately eight times more powerful than the nuclear bomb used over the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 1945.
The blast’s explosive yield was estimated at 120 kilotons of TNT based on the seismic magnitude, NORSAR said.
NORSAR – which monitors earthquakes and nuclear explosions – said it recorded the signals at its site in the Norwegian county of Hedmark, and that the shock originated from an underground nuclear test at North Korea’s Punggye-ri test site.
The US Geological Survey said it had detected an explosion of 6.3 magnitude near Sungjibaegam in the country’s north-east, while Seoul’s weather agency said the artificial quake generated by the blast was 9.8 times more powerful than North Korea’s fifth nuclear test in September 2016.
The test came hours after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected what state media said was a missile-ready hydrogen bomb. Kim was present at the facility where the nuclear weapon was loaded onto a missile, KCNA said, releasing a picture of Kim next to the device.
In January 2016, North Korea claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, its fourth test of an atomic device prior to the fifth in September of that year. Western experts doubted at the time that the explosion had the power of a hydrogen bomb. -DPA