SOUTH Korea has detected signs that the North is preparing another missile launch, the defence ministry said Monday, adding it could involve an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The ministry said signs that North Korea was “preparing for another ballistic missile launch have consistently been detected since Sunday’s test”, referring to Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test.
It did not give details, or indicate when a launch might take place.
SOUTH KOREA’S BLUNT REPLY TO BOMB
South Korea has launched a ballistic missile exercise in response to North Korea’s provocative detonation of what it claimed was a miniaturised hydrogen bomb.
The drill involved surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and F-15K fighter jets hitting targets off the east coast of South Korea, simulating a strike on a target as far away as North Korea’s nuclear test site, Punggye-ri.
Monday’s drill was carried out by only the Korean military, but more are being prepared with the US forces in South Korea, the statement said.
Photos have emerged of the military exercise, which were distributed by the South Korean Defence Ministry on Monday.
“South Korea’s military stages ballistic missile exercise in response to N. Korea’s nuke test,” the Yonhap agency said.
Trump is not ruling out a retaliatory strike against North Korea following its most powerful nuclear test to date, which he called “very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”
The missile exercise comes as US President Donald Trump and his top general have warned the US is prepared to use “overwhelming” force after North Korea’s nuclear test.
It also comes as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on China to act against the rogue nation.
Defence chiefs and intelligence agency heads have briefed Mr Turnbull and the National Security Committee of Cabinet on the developing situation in North Korea after it claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb at the weekend.
Mr Turnbull condemned the “shocking” test while updating Parliament on the matter today.
He also confirmed Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe and he had agreed to meet with the US government on the matter at the soonest possible opportunity.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said Australia’s response would continue to be “firm, measured and calm”.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Australians could be assured there was bipartisan condemnation of North Korea’s “deliberate, dangerous and provocative” testing.
He quoted US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, saying “if this goes to a military solution, it will be tragic on an unbelievable scale”.
Asked as he left church services on Sunday whether he was planning to attack the rogue nation after dictator Kim Jong-un ordered a hydrogen bomb test, designed for a long-range missile, President Trump told reporters: “We’ll see.”
The US leader is set to convene a meeting of his national security team later on Sunday to discuss the American response, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin drawing up tough new economic sanctions to further isolate North Korea.
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting about 10am Monday (midnight Tuesday AEST) to discuss an international response. The US, Britain, France, Japan and South Korea requested the urgent, open session meeting.
President Trump also tweeted that the US “is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.”
The tweet suggested he hopes to squeeze China, the North’s patron for many decades and a vital US trading partner, on the economic front, to persuade Beijing to exert leverage on its neighbour.
North Korea’s latest underground blast defied UN resolutions that prohibit Pyongyang from pursuing nuclear and missile programs.
‘NOT TOTAL ANNIHILATION’
After meeting with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday, US Defence Secretary James Mattis read a brief White House statement in response to North Korea’s latest threat.
“We have many military options, and the president wanted to be briefed on each one of them. We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack, and our commitments among the allies are ironclad,” he said.
“Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam or our allies will be met with a massive military response — a response both effective and overwhelming. Kim Jong-un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice. All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses and remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.”
Before walking off, he said: “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.”
TURNBULL: CHINA MUST ACT
Malcolm Turnbull has redoubled calls on China to rein in North Korea’s “cruel and evil dictatorship” after the hermit kingdom claimed it tested a hydrogen bomb.
Conflict on the Korean Peninsula could now only be avoided by the regime “coming to its senses”, the Prime Minister said this morning.
Mr Turnbull said Kim Jong-un’s nuclear bomb test was a direct affront to China and called for a “strong Chinese response”.
But the Prime Minister said economic sanctions, not war, were still the next step in pressuring the rogue nation to give up its nuclear and missile testing programs.
“Having a near-neighbour that is bringing the Korean Peninsula closer to war than at any time since the end of the Korean War cannot possibly be in China’s interests,” Mr Turnbull told ABC radio.
China cutting off oil exports to North Korea would put “enormous” economic pressure on the regime, he said.
The Prime Minister called Kim Jong-un an “evil” man in some of his strongest language yet on the North Korean threat.
“This is a person that routinely assassinates members of his own family, other people, other would-be threats into the regime,” he said.
“It is a cruel and evil dictatorship, and he starves his own people.
“This is a shocking, dangerous, provocative, illegal regime that is threatening the peace and security of the region and the world, and is advancing nobody’s interests other than the maintenance of that one family’s dictatorship of North Korea.”
Conflict on the Korean peninsula would be a “disaster” for the region and the world, Mr Turnbull said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said North Korea’s latest missile test was “exponentially” more powerful than any previous test.
“We are still to verify precisely what type of bomb test it was but this is a dangerous escalation and we must redouble our efforts to compel North Korea to change its behaviour and deter it from carrying out any other tests,” she told Sky News.
Ms Bishop said there were still a number of options other than war to be pursued, including more sanctions in addition to the new measures that take effect this week.
WAR OF WORDS
Hours after North Korea called its sixth bomb test a “perfect success” and a “meaningful” step in completing the country’s nuclear weapons program, President Trump lashed out on Twitter.
“North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States,” President Trump wrote.
“North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success. South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”
In retaliation, North Korea issued a statement saying US “imperialists” will not be able to avoid the “greatest disaster” if the Asian nation is “awkwardly provoked”.
The Korean Central News Agency said: “If the US imperialists awkwardly provoke the DPRK, they would not be able to escape from the greatest disaster. Do not forget even a moment that sharp ultra-modern strike means aim at the US. This is a severe warning of Songun Korea.”
N KOREA LAUNCHES SIXTH NUCLEAR TEST
The war of words comes after a large earthquake that appeared to be man-made was detected near the North’s known nuclear test site, indicating that the reclusive country had conducted its sixth nuclear test.
The Korean Central News Agency said the test, which took place at 1.30pm AEST, was carried out to “examine and confirm the accuracy and credibility” of its technology.
Several national geological agencies detected unusual seismic activity near the location of Pyongyang’s previous tests in the country’s northeast at around that time.
The White House said President Trump will meet with his national security team on North Korea today.