US President Donald Trump has warned North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it continues to threaten the United States.
Mr Trump’s comments, delivered to reporters at his New Jersey golf course, came after Japan said it believed North Korea could have developed the technology to miniaturise nuclear warheads — enabling them to be put on an inter-continental ballistic missile.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Mr Trump said during a briefing which was supposed to be about the problem of opioid addiction in the US.
The consequences of a US strike would potentially be catastrophic for South Koreans, Japanese and US military personnel within range of North Korean retaliatory strikes.
Japan’s Defence Ministry concluded in an annual white paper released on Tuesday that “it is possible that North Korea has achieved the miniaturisation of nuclear weapons and has developed nuclear warheads”.
Washington Post newspaper, said US intelligence officials have assessed that a decade after North Korea’s first nuclear test explosion, Pyongyang has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, including by intercontinental missiles — the type capable of reaching the continental US.
That is a key benchmark in the country’s attempt to become a full-fledged nuclear power.
The US also calculated last month that North Korea has up to 60 nuclear weapons, the Post said, more than double most assessments by independent experts.
Washington’s alarm over North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s pursuit of nuclear capability has intensified after the North conducted two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles last month.
North Korea has made no secret of its plans to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the United States and has ignored international calls to halt its nuclear and missile programs.
The UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Saturday over its continued missile tests that could slash the reclusive country’s $US3 billion ($3.8 billion) annual export revenue by a third.
North Korea says its intercontinental ballistic missiles are a legitimate means of defence against perceived US hostility.
US stocks fell after Mr Trump’s comment, while a widely followed measure of stock market anxiety spiked higher.