WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Sunday shot back at North Korea’s claimed test of a hydrogen bomb with a blunt threat, saying the U.S. will answer any threat from the North with a “massive military response — a response both effective and overwhelming.” Earlier, President Donald Trump threatened to halt all trade with countries doing business with the North, a veiled warning to China, and faulted South Korea for its “talk of appeasement.”
The tough talk from America’s commander in chief and the retired Marine general he picked to oversee the Pentagon came as the Trump administration searched for a response to the escalating crisis. Kim Jong Un’s regime on Sunday claimed “perfect success” in an underground test of what it called a hydrogen bomb. It was the North’s sixth nuclear test since 2006 — the first since Trump took office in January — and involved a device potentially vastly more powerful than a nuclear bomb.
Trump, asked by a reporter during a trip to church services if he would attack the North, said: “We’ll see.” No U.S. military action appeared imminent, and the immediate focus appeared to be on ratcheting up economic penalties, which have had little effect thus far.
In South Korea, the nation’s military said it conducted a live-fire exercise simulating an attack on North Korea’s nuclear test site to “strongly warn” Pyongyang over the latest nuclear test. Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the drill involved F-15 fighter jets and the country’s land-based “Hyunmoo” ballistic missiles. The released live weapons “accurately struck” a target in the sea off the country’s eastern coast, the JCS said.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting at the request of the U.S., Japan, France, Britain and South Korea. It would be the Security Council’s second urgent session in under a week on the North’s weapons tests, which have continued in the face of a series of sanctions.
Members of Congress expressed alarm at the North’s test and emphasized strengthening U.S. missile defenses. Leaders in Russia, China and Europe issued condemnations.
In briefs remarks after a White House meeting with Trump and other national security officials, Mattis told reporters that America does not seek the “total annihilation” of the North, but then added somberly, “We have many options to do so.” The administration has emphasized its…