North Korea says it may detonate a nuclear weapon over the Pacific Ocean in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech Tuesday at the United Nations.
On Friday Pyongyang’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho stated that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was considering testing “an unprecedented scale hydrogen bomb” following Trump’s vow to “totally destroy” the country if the U.S. needed to defend itself or its allies.
Kim had threatened earlier Friday in a rare, televised address to consider the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” in retaliation against Trump’s remarks.
“Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy the DPRK, we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history,” Kim said, according to state-run media outlet KCNA.
Trump took to Twitter early Friday and labeled Kim a “madman” in an apparent response to the North Korean leader’s speech, which also accused the president of being a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”
“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.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
At the United Nations Thursday Trump announced new sanctions targeting people and entities tied to North Korea.
“North Korea’s nuclear program is a grave threat to peace and security in our world, and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime,” Trump said. “The brutal North Korean regime does not respect its own citizens or the sovereignty of other nations. A new executive order will cut off sources of revenue that fund North Korea’s efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind.”
Earlier this month the United Nations Security Council also approved sanctions that cap Pyongyang’s imports of crude oil, ban textile exports and bar countries from approving new work permits for North Korean workers.
Tensions in the Korean Peninsula remained heightened following Pyongyang’s launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile that overflew Japan this month as well as the test of a purported hydrogen bomb.
Although experts say the test of a nuclear-armed ballistic missile over the Pacific is unlikely, North Korea’s threat is unprecedented for the regime.
Yang Uk, a senior researcher at Seoul’s Korea Defence and Security Forum, told Reuters Friday that strategically such a test would make sense.
“They may be bluffing, but there is a need for them to test their combined missile-bomb capability,” Yang said. “They could have already prepared the plan and are now trying to use Trump’s remarks as an excuse to make it happen.”
Atmospheric tests are rare, with China conducting the last of its type in 1980. The United States’ only atmospheric test came in 1962 when it launched a nuclear-equipped ballistic missile from a submarine in the Pacific.