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President Donald Trump on Sunday condemned North Korea's latest weapons test, saying the nation's actions were very "hostile and dangerous" to the United States and later responded to a suggestion of an imminent military attack by telling a reporter: "We'll see."
Early Sunday, the regime led by Kim Jong Un claimed on state television that it had successfully conducted a test of a hydrogen bomb that could be carried by an intercontinental ballistic missile. Though that claim was not immediately verified by U.S. authorities, seismic activity within North Korea suggested a large detonation consistent with a nuclear test.
"North Korea's supreme dear leader signed the order to test hydrogen bomb to be fitted to the ICBM and accordingly North Korea has tested a hydrogen bomb at noon on Sept. 3rd (North Korea time) and succeeded totally," a female newscaster said on the KCNA televised announcement. The country called the test a "perfect success."
Responding on Twitter, Trump called the country "a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success." Later in the day, the president was asked by a White House pool reporter whether he'd launch an immediate strike against North Korea, and responded by saying: "We'll see."
In the past, the president has attempted to leverage the U.S.-China relationship to rein in North Korea. The two countries share an 870-mile border, and trade between North Korea and China has surged by nearly 38 percent in the last year — even as the crisis has gathered momentum and Pyongyang has become increasingly bellicose.
Via Twitter, the president later said that one measure under consideration may include the U.S. "stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea" — which would presumably include China, the world's 2nd largest economy.
China on Sunday also lashed out at North Korea, with its foreign ministry issuing a statement of "strong condemnation" and urging the country to "stop taking mistaken actions which worsen the situation," the AFP reported.
The White House said in a statement that Trump's national security team "is monitoring this closely," and would meet with the president later on Sunday to discuss the latest developments. During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he'd draft a new package of North Korean sanctions for Trump's consideration.
However, it's unclear how that might influence the hermetic regime, which has steadfastly defied international pressure and United Nations sanctions. In recent days, South Korea has stepped up its defensive posture, joining the U.S. in a series of military exercises designed as a show of force to dissuade Pyongyang.
Trump has repeatedly insisted that all options were on the table, raising the possibility of a military confrontation. Yet just last month, South Korean President Moon Jae-In issued a blunt warning to the U.S., saying a unilateral military strike against the North would not be advisable unless it was coordinated with his country.
Complicating matters is a nettlesome dispute over a free trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea, which reports suggest the Trump administration is considering abrogating.
"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," Trump tweeted on Sunday.
--Leslie Shaffer contributed to this article.