U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday he is considering halting all trade with any country doing business with North Korea after the reclusive communist regime carried out its largest nuclear test yet and he did not rule out a retaliatory strike against Pyongyang.
Trump said he would meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly, both retired U.S. generals, and other military leaders about their options to respond to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test.
Pyongyang said the test of a hydrogen bomb meant to be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile was a “perfect success.” The detonation reportedly shook buildings in China and Russia.
Trump said, “We’ll see,” when asked, as he left a Washington church service, whether he would attack North Korea in retaliation for the nuclear test, a blast that drew widespread world condemnation.
Any U.S. call for an economic boycott of countries doing business with North Korea could quickly hinder the nearly $650 billion in annual trade between the U.S. and China, because Beijing is North Korea’s sole major ally and its biggest trading partner.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Fox News he would prepare a new package of North Korea economic sanctions for consideration.
“We will work with our allies. We will work with China,” Mnuchin said. “But people need to cut off North Korea economically, this is unacceptable behavior.”
One U.S. intelligence official said the United States had no reason to doubt that North Korea had detonated a nuclear bomb, which was 10 times as powerful as one it set off a year go.
“We’re highly confident this was a test of an advanced nuclear device – and what we’ve seen so far is not inconsistent with North Korea’s claims,” the intelligence official said.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the test as “profoundly destabilizing for regional security.”
In earlier Twitter remarks, Trump called North Korea “a rogue nation” whose “words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.” The U.S. leader said North Korea “has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”
But Trump also rebuked U.S. ally South Korea, saying Seoul “is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said Pyongyang “reached a new dimension of provocation” with the test. They called for tougher European Union sanctions against North Korea and new penalties imposed by the United Nations Security Council.
“The chancellor and the president are in agreement that North Korea has trampled on international law and that the international community must therefore react with determination against this new escalation,” Merkel’s office said after she spoke on the phone with Macron.
Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed in a phone call that the international community must step up its response to the North Korean threat. British Prime Minister Theresa May said the U.N. should look at new sanctions and speed up ones it has already imposed, while Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed they would “appropriately deal with” Pyongyang’s latest test.
Trump’s criticism of South Korea and new President Moon Jae-in for his overtures to North Korea comes as the U.S. leader also is preparing to end a free trade deal with Seoul, against the wishes of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn. The U.S. and South Korea carried out more than $112 billion in trade last year, but to Trump’s concern, the United States had a trade deficit of more than $27 billion in the transactions.
Sixth illegal test
North Korea’s test built on test launches of two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July that weapons experts believed were capable of reaching the mainland United States. Pyongyang says its missile development is a defensive effort to protect itself from a U.S. attack.
Pyongyang and Washington have carried out a war of increasingly bellicose threats in recent weeks, with North Korea at one point saying it was planning to launch a test missile near the shores of the U.S. territory of Guam. Trump said if Pyongyang attacked it or its allies he would respond with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un backed off the threat to launch the test missile toward Guam, but since then launched shorter range missile tests before carrying out the nuclear test on Sunday.
An announcement from KCNA, Pyongyang’s state news agency, said the “H-bomb,” designed to be placed as the payload of an ICBM, was “true to the Workers’ Party of Korea’s plan for building a strategic nuclear force.”
The blast produced two shallow earthquakes that were detected in the Punggye-ri region where North Korea’s nuclear test facility is located, according to U.S. and Chinese government seismologists. Authorities in Japan, South Korea, and numerous non-government experts in the United States confirmed the earthquakes were likely due to a nuclear test.
The first was a 6.3-magnitude tremor that was consistent with the detonation of a one-megaton hydrogen bomb, according to experts. The blast was at least 10 times as powerful as the last nuclear test, conducted on Sept. 9, 2016, according to Japanese and South Korean meteorological agencies.
Five minutes later the same seismologists detected a magnitude 4.6 earthquake, which was seen as an indication of the likely collapse of a tunnel in which the nuclear device was placed.
National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.