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‘We’ll see’: Donald Trump signals possible attack on North Korea over latest nuclear test

3 September 2017 11:15 PM
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‘We’ll see’: Donald Trump signals possible attack on North Korea over latest nuclear test

U.S. threatens 'massive military response' if North Korea attacks1:10

U.S. defense chief James Mattis threatens a 'massive military response' if North Korea attacks after Pyonyang conducts its most powerful nuclear test to date. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)

SOUTH Korea has launched a ballistic missile exercise in response to North Korea’s provocative detonation of what it claimed was a miniaturised hydrogen bomb.

The missile exercise comes as US President Donald Trump and his top general have warned the US is prepared to use “overwhelming” force after North Korea’s nuclear test.

It also comes as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on China to act against the rogue nation.

The drill involved surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and the F-15K fighter jets hitting targets off the east coast of South Korea, simulating a strike on a target as far away as North Korea’s nuclear test site, Punggye-ri.

“S. Korea’s military stages ballistic missile exercise in response to N. Korea’s nuke test,” the Yonhap agency said.

Trump is not ruling out a retaliatory strike against North Korea following its most powerful nuclear test to date, which he called “very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”

Asked as he left church services on Sunday whether he was planning to attack the rogue nation after dictator Kim Jong-un ordered a hydrogen bomb test, designed for a long-range missile, President Trump told reporters: “We’ll see.”

The US leader is set to convene a meeting of his national security team later on Sunday to discuss the American response, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin drawing up tough new economic sanctions to further isolate North Korea.

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting about 10am Monday (midnight Tuesday AEST) to discuss an international response. The US, Britain, France, Japan and South Korea requested the urgent, open session meeting.

President Trump also tweeted that the US “is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.”

The tweet suggested he hopes to squeeze China, the North’s patron for many decades and a vital US trading partner, on the economic front, to persuade Beijing to exert leverage on its neighbour.

North Korea’s latest underground blast defied UN resolutions that prohibit Pyongyang from pursuing nuclear and missile programs.

After meeting with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday, US Defence Secretary James Mattis read a brief White House statement in response to North Korea’s latest threat.

“We have many military options, and the president wanted to be briefed on each one of them. We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack, and our commitments among the allies are ironclad,” he 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. Kim Jong-un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice. All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses and remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.”

Before walking off, he said: “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.”

Malcolm Turnbull has redoubled calls on China to rein in North Korea’s “cruel and evil dictatorship” after the hermit kingdom claimed it tested a hydrogen bomb.

Conflict on the Korean Peninsula could now only be avoided by the regime “coming to its senses”, the Prime Minister said this morning.

Mr Turnbull said Kim Jong Un’s nuclear bomb test was a direct affront to China and called for a “strong Chinese response”.

But the Prime Minister said economic sanctions, not war, were still the next step in pressuring the rogue nation to give up its nuclear and missile testing programs.

“Having a near-neighbour that is bringing the Korean Peninsula closer to war than at any time since the end of the Korean War cannot possibly be in China’s interests,” Mr Turnbull told ABC radio.

North Korea says it has tested a hydrogen bomb to be used with an intercontinental ballistic missile.

China cutting off oil exports to North Korea would put “enormous” economic pressure on the regime, he said.

The Prime Minister called Kim Jong Un an “evil” man in some of his strongest language yet on the North Korean threat.

“This is a person that routinely assassinates members of his own family, other people, other would-be threats into the regime,” he said.

“This is a shocking, dangerous, provocative, illegal regime that is threatening the peace and security of the region and the world, and is advancing nobody’s interests other than the maintenance of that one family’s dictatorship of North Korea.”

Conflict on the Korean peninsula would be a “disaster” for the region and the world, Mr Turnbull said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said North Korea’s latest missile test was “exponentially” more powerful than any previous test.

“We are still to verify precisely what type of bomb test it was but this is a dangerous escalation and we must redouble our efforts to compel North Korea to change its behaviour and deter it from carrying out any other tests,” she told Sky News.

Ms Bishop said there were still a number of options other than war to be pursued, including more sanctions in addition to the new measures that take effect this week.

Hours after North Korea called its sixth bomb test a “perfect success” and a “meaningful” step in completing the country’s nuclear weapons program, President Trump lashed out on Twitter.

“North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States,” President Trump wrote.

“North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success. 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!”

In retaliation, North Korea issued a statement saying US “imperialists” will not be able to avoid the “greatest disaster” if the Asian nation is “awkwardly provoked”.

The Korean Central News Agency said: “If the US imperialists awkwardly provoke the DPRK, they would not be able to escape from the greatest disaster. Do not forget even a moment that sharp ultra-modern strike means aim at the US. This is a severe warning of Songun Korea.”

The war of words comes after a large earthquake that appeared to be man-made was detected near the North’s known nuclear test site, indicating that the reclusive country had conducted its sixth nuclear test.

The Korean Central News Agency said the test, which took place at 1.30pm AEST, was carried out to “examine and confirm the accuracy and credibility” of its technology.

Several national geological agencies detected unusual seismic activity near the location of Pyongyang’s previous tests in the country’s northeast at around that time.

The White House said President Trump will meet with his national security team on North Korea today.

The United States Geological Survey detected an “explosion” with a magnitude of 6.3.

Japan concluded the tremors detected in North Korea were a nuclear explosion, marking the sixth atomic test by Pyongyang since 2006.

Tremors caused were at least 10 times as powerful as the last time Pyongyang exploded an atomic bomb a year ago, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

The Korea Meteorological Administration estimated that the nuclear blast yield of the presumed test was between 50 to 60 kilotons, or five to six times stronger than the North Korea’s test in September 2016.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been high since last month when North Korea threatened to launch missiles into the sea near the strategically located US Pacific territory of Guam after Trump said Pyongyang would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the US.

US President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke by phone and said that in face of an “escalating” situation with North Korea that close co-operation between their countries and with South Korea was needed, Abe told reporters.

“It is absolutely unacceptable if North Korea did force another nuclear test, and we must protest strongly,” Mr Abe said.

President Trump told Mr Abe that the United States, as an ally, was 100 per cent with Japan, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters. Japan also raised the prospect of further sanctions against the isolated North, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying curbs on its oil trade would be on the table.

South Korea said North Korea’s defiant test should be met with the “strongest possible” response, including new UN Security Council sanctions to “completely isolate” the country.

China’s Foreign Ministry called on Pyongyang to stop its “wrong” actions. The ministry said in a statement that China resolutely opposed and strongly condemned North Korea’s actions and urged the country to respect UN Security Council resolutions.

Under third-generation leader Kim, North Korea has been pursuing a nuclear device small and light enough to fit on a long-range ballistic missile, without affecting its range and making it capable of surviving re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.


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