North Korea detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear weapon earlier this month at its Punggye-ri site northeast of Pyongyang, causing a earthquake with a magnitude of around 6.3. The move escalated tensions with the U.S. and its neighbors, and this week the regime’s foreign minister said the country’s options included testing a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.
The early September detonation followed two intercontinental ballistic missile launches in July that brought Kim Jong Un’s isolated regime a step closer to achieving its aim of being able to deploy a nuclear warhead over the continental U.S.
On Thursday, North Korea struck back at U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to destroy it, with Kim warning of the "highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” and his foreign minister suggesting that could include testing a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.
Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho spoke to reporters in New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly. He said in remarks broadcast on South Korean TV that the countermeasures flagged by Kim might refer to a “strongest-ever” ground-level test of a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific.
His comments came after Trump ordered new sanctions on individuals, companies and banks doing business with North Korea as he sought to further isolate the regime and increase economic pressure for it to curb its weapons programs.
Earlier this month, Pyongyang fired its second missile in as many months over northern Japan into the Pacific Ocean. Since Kim came to power after the death of his father Kim Jong Il in 2011, he has ramped up nuclear and missile weapon tests.
U.S. analysts now estimate that North Korea may have as many as 60 nuclear weapons, according to a Washington Post report. That’s in addition to cyberwarfare capabilities, a biological weapons research program and a chemical weapons stockpile. It also has a vast array of conventional artillery aimed at Seoul.
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