WASHINGTON – The U.S.’s defense chief issued a stern warning after North Korea’s latest claim of a successful hydrogen bomb test, further raising the temperature and the war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.
After meeting with President Trump and Vice President Pence for a national security briefing Sunday afternoon, Secretary of Defense James Mattis threatened possible military action as a response to North Korea’s test of a hydrogen bomb capable of being attached to an intercontinental ballistic missile.
"Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response," Mattis warned in prepared remarks read outside the White House.
"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 continued, adding the military response would be both "effective and overwhelming" – perhaps alluding to Pres. Trump's previous promise to rain "fire and fury" on the Hermit Kingdom.
Defense Secretary Mattis speaks outside the White House after North Korea's purported hydrogen bomb test. pic.twitter.com/amakCNYbu4
— Behind The News (@Behind__News) September 3, 2017
After concluding his statement, Mattis walked away as reporters shouted follow up questions, refusing to confirm whether he believes North Korea can mount a nuclear warhead on a missile, whether it was, indeed, a hydrogen bomb, or if President Trump intends to go to war with Pyongyang.
Earlier Sunday, Mr. Trump tweeted his reaction to North Korea's latest provocation.
He said the the regime's "words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous" to the U.S. He also called North Korea "a rogue nation."
He later added his administration is considering halting all trade with countries doing business with North Korea.
The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2017
Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council set up an emergency meeting for Monday at the request of the U.S., Japan, France, Britain and South Korea. It will be the second time in less than a week that the Security Council holds an urgent session on North Korea's testing of weapons.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Sunday's nuclear test. His spokesman labeled it "profoundly destabilizing for regional security."
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was on-hand when the H-bomb was loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The North Koreans claim it is the strongest yet with the missile capable of reaching the continental United States.
The communist regime's state-run media hailed the nation's sixth nuclear test as a "perfect success." It reportedly caused seismic activity registering at a level between a 5.7 to 6.3 magnitude earthquake.
Neighboring South Korea said it wants to answer with the strongest measures possible but gave no specifics.
Meanwhile, world leaders, including those from France, Russia and China, also condemned Sunday's test. French President Emmanuel Macron called for the UN Security Council to respond swiftly and for a "united and clear reaction" from the European Union.
In recent interviews, experts on the topic offered CBN News their assessment of Pyongyang's nuclear abilities.
"It isn't ludicrous to think that the North Koreans, even though their economy is one-third the size of Ethiopia, can do this," said Harry Kazianis who heads up defense studies at the Center for National Interest.
"If you put in enough money and starve your people you can build things like this," he said.
Kazianis said Kim claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb last year, but most experts were dismissive, arguing instead the North might have had a more powerful atomic bomb.
At the end of World War II, the United States used an atomic bomb on Japan, which relies on splitting atoms to produce explosions through nuclear fission. Experts say hydrogen bombs use nuclear fusion and can be up to a thousand times or more powerful than an atomic bomb.
If a hydrogen bomb struck New York, for example, the death toll could reach close to 3.5 million.
Pentagon officials say hydrogen bombs are heavier than a standard atomic device, so Kim would potentially need a more advanced missile than what he has tested so far to carry a larger payload to hit the United States.