U.S. President Donald Trump says his country is prepared to defend itself and allies "using the full range of diplomatic, conventional, and nuclear capabilities" after North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test.
A White House statement on September 3 quoted Trump as making the comments during a phone call with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
It followed remarks by U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis that any threats to the United States would be “met with a massive military response” and that North Korea risked “total annihilation” with its actions.
Mattis, with Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, at his side, told reporters, "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."
Already-high tensions have risen further after North Korea said it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb capable of being loaded on a long-range missile.
North Korea state media said the test was a "perfect success" and was a "meaningful" step in completing the country's nuclear weapons program.
North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic-missile program are banned by United Nations resolutions, but Pyongyang has continued to carry out tests in defiance of nearly all world powers.
South Korea's military said its air forces and the army carried out a nuclear-missile exercise in response to Pyongyang's test.
The country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff early on September 4 said the military conducted the live-fire exercise simulating an attack on the North's nuclear site, hitting "designated targets in the East Sea."
In a rare show of unity, the international community strongly condemned the latest nuclear test, with China urging the secretive communist state to stop "wrong" actions and Russia saying it could lead to “serious consequences.”
Before his phone call with Abe, Trump wrote on Twitter that Pyongyang's "words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States."
At the request of the United States, Japan, France, Britain, and South Korea, the UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting for early September 4 to discuss the crisis.
Ahead of the meeting, South Korea and Japan's leaders agreed to pursue stronger UN sanctions against Pyongyang, said a South Korean presidential palace spokesman.
The Security Council last imposed sanctions in August, targeting North Korean exports.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the latest nuclear test, with his spokesman calling it "profoundly destabilizing for regional security."
A hydrogen bomb is more powerful than a regular atomic bomb -- like the ones the United States dropped on Japan near the end of World War II.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP and AP