The United States warned Sunday it could launch a “massive military response” to threats from North Korea following Pyongyang’s provocative detonation of what it claimed was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb.
The comments from defense secretary Jim Mattis came after President Donald Trump called a meeting of his national security advisers to discuss an unexpectedly powerful nuclear test said to exceed in magnitude the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.
Trump had earlier denounced the test, saying the time for “appeasement” was over and threatening drastic economic sanctions, including “stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.”
Mattis went futher still, telling North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un: “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.
“We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea. But as I said, we have many options to do so,” he added.
US monitors measured a powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake near the North’s main testing site, with an aftershock possibly caused by the collapse of a tunnel at the site.
The resultant shock caused momentary panic in parts of China — and Trump slammed it as “very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”
North Korea said the test of what it described as a hydrogen bomb designed for a long-range missile was “a perfect success.”
Pyongyang residents celebrated as a jubilant television newsreader hailed the “unprecedentedly large” blast; she said it had moved the country closer to “the final goal of completing the state nuclear force.”
International condemnation of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test was swift and strong, including from neighboring China. South Korean President Moon Jae-In, once an advocate of dialogue with the North, called for the “strongest punishment.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the test “torpedoes the global non-proliferation regime, violates UN Security Council resolutions” and threatens regional peace, while adding, in a phone call to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that the crisis “should be resolved only by political and diplomatic means.”
And UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the test as “profoundly destabilizing,” while the Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Monday.
He has repeatedly insisted that Beijing lean on its isolated neighbor to halt its nuclear and missile development.
On Sunday, however, the US president also aimed criticism at Seoul.
South Korea, Trump said, “is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”
Later Sunday, a reporter shouted a question as Trump was leaving a church in Washington, asking whether he planned to attack North Korea. The president replied, “We’ll see.”