Marking a dramatic escalation of North Korea’s stand-off with the United States and its allies, Pyongyang claimed on September 3 that it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test of an advanced hydrogen bomb for a long-range missile.
North Korean state news agency KCNA released pictures showing leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a silver-coloured, hourglass-shaped warhead during a visit to the country’s nuclear weapons institute.
“All components of the H-bomb were homemade and all the processes… were put on the Juche basis, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons, as many as it wants,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
In response, US President Donald Trump did not rule out military action and threatening to cut off trade with any country doing business with North Korea.
Asked whether the US would attack North Korea, Trump said: “We’ll see.”
As reported by the Reuters news agency, Trump’s trade threat – issued via Twitter – is seen as a way to pressure China, which is Pyongyang’s top trading partner. The president also appeared to rebuke ally South Korea, which faces an existential threat from North Korea’s nuclear programme.
“South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!” Trump said in an early morning tweet.
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has argued for continuing dialogue with its neighbour over its nuclear programme, while also supporting international sanctions.
Meanwhile, reports that the US could pull out of its trade deal with South Korea has ratcheted up tensions with the country.
One former senior State Department official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, criticised Trump for accusing South Korea of appeasement.
“It was unseemly, unhelpful, and divisive to gratuitously slap our major ally at the very moment when the threat from (North Korea) has reached a new height,” said the official.
In a separate report, the Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said North Korea’s provocations had “reached a new dimension” with the latest nuclear test. Merkel spoke on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron. Both leaders condemned North Korea and expressed their support for a tightening of EU sanctions against it.
President of the European Commission Donald Tusk said the UN Security Council should “adopt further UN sanctions and show stronger resolve to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” adding “The stakes are getting too high”.
Last week, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.
Japan has also called for a concerted international effort to put an end to the “growing threat” posed by North Korea’s nuclear programme.