North Korean crisis 'is leading to a global planetary catastrophe' warns Putin as Kim Jong-un 'moves intercontinental missiles to the coast' and US warn the dictator is 'begging for war'
Speaking after a summit in China, the Russian president condemned the rogue state's detonation of a hydrogen bomb on Sunday as 'provocative'.
But he warned against 'useless and inefficient' sanctions, saying they could escalate tensions.
'All of this can lead to a global planetary catastrophe and a great number of victims,' he said.
His comments at a BRICS summit in Xiamen came after North Korea reportedly moved an intercontinental ballistic missile to its coast amid warnings from the US that Kim Jong-un is 'begging for war'.
Stark warning: The North Korea nuclear crisis could lead to a global planetary catastrophe, said Vladimir Putin
Meeting: Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, are both likely to reject US-proposed sanctions on North Korea
Mr Putin called for talks with North Korea, and warned against 'military hysteria'.
He said it was important that all parties, including North Korea, should not face 'threats of annihilation' and 'step on the path of cooperation'.
The Russian leader added: 'Whipping up military hysteria makes absolutely no sense in this situation. This is a road to nowhere.'
This morning, South Korean media claimed Pyongyang had started moving a rocket towards the country's west coast on Monday, using the cover of darkness to avoid surveillance.
The US is pushing for the 'strongest possible measures' on the rogue nation following its sixth and most powerful nuclear test - but China and Russia are likely to oppose UN sanctions.Share
- Putin opposed sanctions and made stark warning after BRICS summit in China
- Pyongyang started moving rocket to the west coast on Monday, reports claim
- The North Korean military 'used the cover of darkness to avoid surveillance'
- Comes as the US warned North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is 'begging for war'
- South Korea has staged live-fire naval drills involving war ships and fighter jets
- The North Korea nuclear crisis could lead to a global planetary catastrophe, Vladimir Putin warned today.
But North Korea showed no let-up in its rhetoric this morning, suggesting that South Korea needs to be punished for being at the beck and call of the US.
A ranting editorial in state newspaper Rodong Sinmun said: 'The south Korean puppet forces are not free to fire even a single bullet as they are at the U.S. beck and call. Such guys are crying out for 'punishment'. This would make even the stone Buddha in the temple laugh.'
A separate statement from Kim Myong Gil, officer of the Korean People's Army, said North Korea's nuclear test had been 'heavy punishment and sledgehammer blows to the US imperialists'.
Amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Seoul this morning launched major live-fire naval drills to warn its isolated neighbour against any provocations at sea.
South Korea also said it was talking to Washington about deploying aircraft carriers and strategic bombers to the Korean peninsula and has not ruled out redeploying US tactical nuclear weapons on its territory.
North Korea has 'moved an intercontinental ballistic missile to its coast' amid warnings from the US that Kim Jong-un (pictured) is 'begging for war'
Pyongyang started moving a rocket towards the country's west coast on Monday, using the cover of darkness to avoid surveillance, South Korean media claim. Pictured: North Korea carried out a launch of an intermediate range missile in August
South Korean warships including a 2,500-ton frigate, a 1000-ton patrol ship and 400-ton guided-missile vessels participated in drills aimed at retaliating against potential North Korean threats
The South Korean army's K-1 tanks take part in a military exercise in Paju, South Korea this morning
Defense Minister Song Young-moo said that he asked his US counterpart, Jim Mattis, to bolster defences in the South.
'I told him that it would be good for strategic assets to be sent regularly to the Korean Peninsula and that some South Korean lawmakers and media are strongly pushing for tactical nuclear weapons [to be redeployed],' Song is quoted as saying.
'The redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons is an alternative worth a full review,' Song added.
This morning, South Korean warships including a 2,500-ton frigate, a 1000-ton patrol ship and 400-ton guided-missile vessels participated in drills aimed at retaliating against potential North Korean threats.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that Washington will present a new sanctions resolution to be negotiated in the coming days, with a view to voting on it next Monday.
'Only the strongest sanctions will enable us to resolve this problem through diplomacy,' Haley told the meeting Monday called by the United States, Britain, France, Japan and South Korea.
North Korea on Sunday triggered global alarm when it detonated what it described as a hydrogen bomb designed for a long-range missile.
The underground blast had a yield of between 50 and 100 kilotons, or on average more than five times more powerful than the bomb detonated over Hiroshima, UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman told the council.
Declaring that 'enough is enough,' Haley said incremental sanctions imposed on Pyongyang since 2006 had failed.
South Korea's airborne early warning and control system aircraft, called Peace Eye, takes off to monitor North Korea's military movements at an air base in Gimhae, southeast of Seoul, South Korea
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya (left) speaks with US Ambassador Nikki Haley (R) and Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi (centre) after a UN Security Council emergency meeting over North Korea's latest nuclear test
US Ambassador Nikki Haley told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that Washington will present a new sanctions resolution to be negotiated in the coming days, with a view to voting on it next Monday
Leader Kim Jong-Un's 'abusive use of missiles and his nuclear threats show that he is begging for war,' she said.
'War is never something the United States wants and we don't want it now, but our country's patience is not unlimited,' she said.
Haley did not spell out what measures Washington was seeking, but diplomats said they could target oil supplies to North Korea - potentially dealing a major blow to the economy.
New sanctions could also seek to curb tourism to the country and ban North Korean laborers sent abroad.
The draft text was expected to be presented to the 14 other council members on Tuesday as the United States sought to respond quickly to reports that North Korea was preparing another missile launch.
This morning, South Korea's Asia Business Daily, citing an unidentified source, reported that North Korea had been spotted moving a rocket that appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) towards its west coast.
South Korean soldiers walk to a checkpoint near the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea, on Ganghwa island
The rocket started moving on Monday and was spotted moving only at night to avoid surveillance, the report said.
South Korea's defence ministry, which warned on Monday that North Korea was ready to launch an ICBM at any time, said they were unable to confirm the contents of the report.
Pyongyang in July fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that apparently brought much of the US mainland into range and Seoul has said it could be planning another test.
Meanwhile Japan is planning for a possible mass evacuation of nearly 60,000 Japanese citizens living in or visiting South Korea amid heightened tensions with the North.
PYONGTANG'S NUCLEAR TIMELINE
According to Nikkei Asian Review, a government source added: 'If the U.S. decided on a military strike against the North, the Japanese government would start moving toward an evacuation on its own accord regardless of whether the American plans are public.'
At the UN, China's ambassador Liu Jieyi warned that the crisis was worsening and emphasized the need for dialogue and a diplomatic solution.
'China will never allow chaos and war on the (Korean) peninsula,' he asserted.
Liu urged the parties to agree to a Chinese-Russian plan calling for the North to freeze its missile and nuclear tests and the United States and South Korea to suspend joint military exercises.
Haley rejected the proposal as 'insulting.'
'When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an ICBM pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard. No one would do that. We certainly won't,' she declared.
Russia said it would study the new US proposals for sanctions, but again stressed those measures alone would not resolve the crisis.
'This is not the way to get parties to the table to seek a political solution,' said Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.
The council has imposed seven sets of sanctions on North Korea since it first tested a nuclear device in 2006, but Pyongyang has repeatedly found ways to circumvent the measures.
South Korea used ballistic missiles in a live-fire exercise simulating an attack on the North's nuclear site
The most recent resolutions, however, have zeroed in on the economy, targeting key exports sectors such as coal that are a source of hard currency for the regime.
Haley reiterated US threats to impose sanctions on countries that conduct trade with North Korea, saying these nations will be seen as 'giving aid to their reckless and dangerous nuclear intentions'.
That could have major reverberations: China is the largest trading partner of both the North and the United States.
South Korea's defense ministry said it was already strengthening its defenses, in part by deploying more US-made Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile launchers.
The South carried out an early-morning volley of ballistic missiles on Monday simulating an attack on the North's nuclear test site, followed on Tuesday by the naval drills.
US President Donald Trump and South Korean leader Moon Jae-In spoke on the phone Monday and agreed to remove limits on the payload of the South's missiles, fixed at 500 kilograms according to a 2001 bilateral agreement.
Trump also approved in principle, the sale of 'many billions of dollars' worth of military weapons and equipment from the United States by South Korea,' according to a White House readout of the call which did not mention any specific new deals.
Seoul was the fourth-biggest importer of US arms between 2010-2016, purchasing nearly $5 billion of weaponry in that period according to an analysis by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
On Sunday US monitors measured a powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake near the North's main testing site.
Hours before the test, the North released images of Kim inspecting a device it called a 'thermonuclear weapon with super explosive power' entirely made 'by our own efforts and technology'.
The South's defence minister said Seoul believed the North had succeeded in miniaturising a bomb to fit into a missile.
The North says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against the threat of invasion, and analysts say it is seeking to strengthen its hand for any future negotiations wi
'We are not looking for the total annihilation of North Korea...' James Mattis says President Trump has been briefed on the 'many' military responses available - and hasn't ruled out any of them
In a terse statement outside the White House on Sunday afternoon, Mattis said that Trump had been briefed on each of the 'many military options' available during a meeting with national security heads.
'We made it clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack and that our agreements with our allies are iron-clad,' 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.'
He urged Kim Jong-Un to 'take heed' of the UN Security Council's 'unified' objection to the test of the 100-kiloton bomb test, which caused a 6.3-magnitude earthquake.
'We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country - namely North Korea,' Mattis concluded, 'but as I said, we have many options to do so.'
He, and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had been present but silent throughout, then left without answering any questions. President Trump was not seen during the announcement.
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Kim Jong-un was pictured inspecting the peanut-shaped device – the design and scale of which indicated it had a powerful thermonuclear warhead. State media said it was a bomb intended for an intercontinental ballistic missile
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis appeared outside the White House on Sunday to promise North Korea that the US had the ability to 'totally annihilate' the nuke-testing country. Also present was Gen. Joseph Dunford (right in left), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Donald Trump remained tight-lipped on whether the US would attack North Korea in response to its nuclear test Sunday morning, but said economic sanctions were possible
On Saturday night EST, North Korea released this photo showing Kim Jong-Un and what appeared to be a nuclear warhead. Soon after, it detonated a 100kt bomb underground
- Trump has warned that the US could take economic or military action after NK detonated a hydrogen bomb
- US President suggested 'stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea'
- That was likely a veiled threat towards China - which provides 85 per cent of North Korea's imports
- Refusing to do business with China would cause huge damage to US firms including Apple
- US and South Korean leaders are now discussing 'military measures' to be taken
- North Korea detonated hydrogen bomb sparking powerful 6.3 magnitude quake
- Blast directly ordered by Kim Jong-Un and was large enough to destroy a city
- South Korea launched a ballistic missile exercise late Sunday in response to the nuclear test US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has raised the threat of the 'total annihilation' of North Korea in the aftermath of an early morning hydrogen bomb test by North Korea.
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The South's military conducted a live-fire exercise simulating an attack on the North's nuclear site, hitting 'designated targets in the East Sea', the report added, quoting the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
'The training came in response to the North's sixth nuclear test... and involved the country's Hyunmoo ballistic missile and the F-15K fighter jets,' it said.
The South's military said the range to the simulated targets were equivalent to the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site in its northeastern province.
It's unclear why Donald Trump was not present for the announcement, but the US's military leaders may have been chosen to make the calmly-worded warning to add extra gravitas.
JAMES MATTIS' STATEMENT IN FULL
On Sunday morning, as he left church hours after the tweets, the president remained tight-lipped when asked if he might order a preemptive strike.
When asked by the press, he responded: 'We'll see.'
However, after Mattis' remarks it would appear that the US is only willing to act in retaliation to 'threats' - although it's ambiguous as to whether that would include verbal threats or only outright attacks.
Those remarks would appear to put the US more or less in accord with what appeared to be China's own policy last month.
On August 11, state newspaper The Global Times warned that if the US ignited conflict in the area, China would come to the defense of North Korea, its nominal - but disliked - ally.
However, it said, if North Korea was the one to instigate military action then China would not become involved.
According to the editorial 'if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral.
'If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.'
Although The Global Times is not officially a mouthpiece for the government, experts said that the remarks were likely in line with official government policy.
That would appear to put the ball in Kim's court.
While Beijing has no love for the Kim regime it fears losing the country as a bulwark against US ally South Korea. Reunification would likely mean North Korea falling under the control of Seoul - and by extension America.
More immediately, it is concerned about the risk of a flood of refugees across North Korea's northern border, which is larger and more porous than the border with South Korea.
However, China might not get off lightly if Trump gets his way.
When asked outside church whether an attack was possible, the president (pictured left, with the First Lady, and right with a cleric) only said, 'We'll see'
North Korean television today released these photos appearing to show Kim Jong-Un signing the order to carry out the test
Shortly shortly after leaving church and before Mattis' comments, Trump said that the US was 'considering... stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea'
In a tweet after leaving church but before Mattis' comments, Trump wrote 'The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.'
That was likely a veiled threat to China, which provides 85 per cent of North Korea's imports, and buys 83 per cent of its exports.
But US-China trade totaled more than $600 billion last year, and such a plan may be unworkable.
Trump's proposed sanctions against anyone dealing with North Korea would hit many countries hard - particularly China, which accounts for 83 per cent of North Korean exports and 85 per cent of imports, according to the Office of Economic Complexity.
It's entirely possible that Trump's remarks were made to pressure the country - North Korea's only ally - into renewing efforts to rein Kim in.
NORTH KOREA'S TOP TRADE PARTNERS
The most prominent of those, of course, is Apple, which manufactures its electronics in China. It has also invested heavily in tech there, including pumping $1 billion into ride-share app Didi Chuxing last year.
But a string of other American businesses have huge investments in the country, including Walmart, KFC and McDonald's - all of which are popular there.
General Motors, Nike, Boeing and Coca-Cola also make huge profits from the country.
In 2016, trade with China - America's largest good trading partner - totaled an estimated $648.2 billion, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
Of that figure imports were $478.9 billion and exports totaled $169.3 billion.
Even discounting the China factor, a string of US allies do trade with North Korea, including the UK, Germany and France - as well as America itself. US products made up 1.6 per cent of all imports to North Korea in 2016.
Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he was putting together a package to cut off the US's ties with North Korea.
'I will submit new sanctions for his strong consideration,' he said. 'There's much more we can do economically.'
He added that he had spoken with Trump and that he would 'draft a sanctions bill and send it to the president. We will work with our allies. We will work with China. But people need to cut off North Korea economically.'
North Korea responded to Trump's early-morning tweets by saying that the US 'would not be able to escape from the greatest disaster'. It said that was a 'severe warning'
Trump's remarks about economic action came after a string of tweets at around 7:45am Sunday, when he wrote: 'North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test.
'Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.
'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!'
North Korea responded less than an hour later by threatening the US with dire consequences.
'If the US imperialists awkwardly provoke the DPRK, they would not be able to escape from the greatest disaster,' the state's Korean Central News Agency said.
It added: 'Do not forget even a moment that sharp ultra-modern strike means aim at the US This is a severe warning of Songun Korea' - 'Songun' being the term used to describe the country's 'military-first' policy.
US and South Korean officials have agreed to make a military response to the detonation of the bomb - which occurred shortly after midnight EST on Sunday - 'as soon as possible,' according to South Korea.
Early Sunday morning, following the test of the hydrogen bomb, Trump made a string of fiery tweets in which he called the county 'hostile and dangerous'
He said that the country had been an 'embarrassment' to China, whom he has long tried to encourage to intervene on America's behalf
The president concluded with a worrying warning that 'appeasement with North Korea will not work' and that the North Korean government 'only understand one thing'
Kim Jong-Un (left) appears to sign the order (right) asking his scientist to proceed with the test in images released by North Korean TV
After the announcement, Texas Senator Ted Cruz said that he didn't necessarily approve of Trump's remarks, but that he was grateful for the appearance of a 'strong' US president.
TRUMP PLANS TO END SOUTH KOREAN TRADE AGREEMENT
'I do think it helps for North Korea and for China to understand that we have a president who is strong.
'I think the president is right that Kim Jong-Un and other bullies only understand and respect strength, that weakness, that appeasement, encourages this action.
'In term of what happens, listen, no rational person wants to see a military conflict with North Korea, with the nuclear weapons, there almost any scenario, you're looking at tens or thousands or hundreds of thousands of casualties in a matter of days.'
Others were more critical of the tweets, such as ex-State Department nonproliferation expert, who told the New York Times he didn't like Trump's implication that South Korea had been appeasing Kim.
'Moon has actually been very supportive of the US approach of maximum pressure and engagement,' he said.
'Nothing he's done so far smacks of appeasement.'
Ely Ratner, a top national security official in the Obama administration, complained that Trump had slammed South Korea even after the country underwent economic sanctions by China for hosting a US-run missile defense system.
'In a circumstance where we're going to need close cooperation with not only South Korea but China as well, he's coming out swinging at all of them rather than trying to build support and coordination,' he said. 'It just looks so haphazard.'
The South Korean army took part in military exercises (pictured) in Paju on Sunday in the wake of the test. The country says it and the US will take military action 'as soon as possible'
In Japan (left), pedestrians were seen horrified at the news on a public display, while (right) North Koreans reacted with joy to the announcement
In an early-morning phone call on Sunday, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, promised the support and co-operation to his South Korean counterpart. Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, Yonhap reported.
Jeong's office said that the pair had 'agreed to discuss all military measures against the North'.
It also said that Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea and the allies' Combined Forces Command, agreed shortly after the detonation to take action 'as soon as possible'.
NORTH KOREA'S NUCLEAR TESTS
Xinhua, China's news agency, reported that the country's president, Xi Jinping, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin had both agreed to deal 'appropriately with the latest nuclear test'.
'The two leaders agreed to stick to the goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and keep close communication and coordination to deal with the new situation,' it said.
Both countries lie directly on the northern border of North Korea, and would be at risk of receiving a flood of refugees in the event of war.
Putin is currently in Beijing as part of a summit for the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - that starts Monday.
Putin has also spoken to Japanese leader Shinzo Abe and urged restraint after the tests, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists Sunday.
He said Putin 'said the international community could not give in to emotions, should act calmly and deliberately, and stressed that the complex settlement of the nuclear and other problems of the Korean Peninsula can be achieved exclusively through political and diplomatic means.'
South Korea and the US are now planning 'military action' to be taken against North Korea 'as soon as possible,' according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff
China says its premier, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin (both seen at a summit in Beijing, Sunday) will deal 'appropriately' with the threat. Both countries share borders with North Korea
WHY ANOTHER TEST NOW?
'I discussed the serious and grave threat these dangerous and illegal actions present with President Abe in Japan this week and reiterate the call we jointly made for tougher action, including increasing the pace of implementation of existing sanctions and looking urgently in the UN Security Council at new measures.
'This is now even more pressing. The international community has universally condemned this test and must come together to continue to increase the pressure on North Korea's leaders to stop their destabilising actions.'
UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson condemned the 'reckless' nuclear weapon test and stressed that 'all options are on the table' when pressed on military action.
But he warned: 'The distance between North Korea and Seoul is very very small - they could basically vaporize large parts of the South Korean population even with conventional weapons.'
Also condemning the hermit state's actions was Donald Tusk, the president of the European Commission.
He called on the UN Security Council 'to adopt further UN sanctions and show stronger resolve to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,' adding, 'The stakes are getting too high.'
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the actions 'profoundly destabilizing for regional security' and demanded North Korea cease its tests.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (pictured) called North Korea's tests actions 'profoundly destabilizing for regional security'
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric added: 'This act is yet another serious breach of the DPRK's international obligations and undermines international non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.'
WHAT MAKES A HYDROGEN BOMB DIFFERENT FROM A REGULAR NUKE?
North Korea's hydrogen bomb - which is powerful enough to destroy a city - sparked a powerful 6.3 magnitude earthquake amid an 'escalating' nuclear crisis when it was detonated on Sunday.
The terrifying tremor was detected in the northeast of the country where the Punggye-ri test site is located - but was so strong that it shook buildings in China and Russia.
But the raw power of the bomb - which has a 100 kiloton yield, around five times bigger than that dropped on Nagasaki - isn't the only threat it faces to the US.
North Korea's state news agency warned that the weapon 'is a multifunctional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack.'
An EMP - electro-magnetic pulse - is a wave emitted from nuclear explosions that scrambles electronics, much like a sudden power surge can overload a power outlet.
But an EMP is far, far worse; a nuclear bomb detonated high in the atmosphere could knock out the power grid across a swathe of the continental US - or even all of it.
That would leave hospitals without power, civilian and government agencies unable to coordinate, and the fabric of society unraveling fast.
North Korea has threatened an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the US. A nuke detonated high above the ground could produce an EMP that would knock out all electrics within a vast radius - the higher the detonation, the wider the effect
'I think this is the principal, the most important and dangerous, threat to the United States,' James Woolsey, former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1993 to 1995, told the San Diego Union-Tribune in March.
'If you look at the electric grid and what it's susceptible to, we would be moving into a world with no food delivery, no water purification, no banking, no telecommunications, no medicine. All of these things depend on electricity in one way or another.'
The higher the bomb is detonated, the wider the EMP's range off effect; a bomb detonated 19 miles above the center of the country would affect all of Kansas and Nebraska, almost all of South Dakota, and substantial chunks of surrounding states.
Theoretically, a sufficiently powerful bomb detonated at an altitude of 249 miles would wipe out all electronics in the US, save the southernmost top of Florida and the easternmost states - as well as affecting Canada and Mexico.
North Korea usually times its detonations for its national holidays, and so many would have expected a detonation on September 9 - which is North Korea's Day of the Foundation of the Republic. The last nuclear test occurred that day.
The detonation was announced by news anchor Ri Chun-hee (pictured Sunday), who has been making proclamations on Korean Central Television for more than 40 years
Instead, it came during the Labor Day weekend - likely a direct attempt to spite the US, Foreign Policy suggested.
Others have speculated that detonating the bomb now is intended to thumb a nose at Xi, disrupting preparations for Beijing's upcoming BRICS summit in an effort to prove that North Korea isn't under China's control.
Earlier on Sunday, North Korean state television claimed the country's sixth nuclear test - 10 times more powerful than its fifth - was a 'perfect success' and could pave the way for a frightening new range of missiles loaded with hydrogen bombs.It added that the underground test - which was directly ordered by leader Kim Jong-un - was a 'meaningful' step in completing the country's nuclear weapons program.
The worrying development comes amid heightened tensions following Pyongyang's test-launch of two missiles in July that potentially could hit major mainland US cities.
The regime frequently flaunts its intercontinental ballistic missile technology and has repeatedly tested hydrogen bombs - but has so far been unable to combine the two into a lethal weapon.
However, Jong-un claims the latest explosive - which seismologists calculated to be eight times as damaging as the Hiroshima nuclear bomb dropped by the US in World War II - could be packed into a warhead and fired towards US territory.
Overhead pictures of Punggye-ri nuclear test site from August 17, published by 38 North. The detonation occurred close to this location, and vibrations were felt in China and Russia
Yonhap, South Korea's official news agency, reports the quake struck where North Korea's nuclear test site Punggye-ri is located
The sudden escalation comes after months of posturing from North Korea and America, with a war of words between the two countries spiraling into a series of escalating weapons tests by Pyongyang.
It has seen Jong-un flaunting his military might with increasingly powerful missiles in a bid to scare off his enemies.
Simultaneously, he has branded world leaders 'puppets' and bragged that attempts to locate his missiles were a 'silly dream'.
Meanwhile Donald Trump had promised 'fire and fury like the world has never seen' if North Korea continued to test missiles.
The latest blast has sparked an international backlash, with South Korea pledging to 'completely' isolate North Korea and deploy the most powerful US tactical weapons.
US National Security Adviser HR McMaster spoke to his South Korean counterpart in an emergency phone call following the test, which was seen as a direct challenge to Trump.
Just hours earlier, Trump had talked to Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe about the nuclear crisis in the region.
Abe later slammed the test as 'absolutely unacceptable'.
He added: 'North Korea's nuclear and missile development programme is a threat that is more grave and urgent to the safety of our country and has entered a new stage.
'It is significantly hurting regional and international peace and stability.'
China added that it 'resolutely opposes' and 'strongly condemns' the test while urging the rogue state to 'stop taking wrong actions'.
South Korean general Cho Han-kyu, chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's operation office, condemns the test. The country has warned that military action would happen soon
Photos released Sunday show the country's leader Kim Jong-un inspecting the hydrogen device that it promised would be loaded on a new intercontinental ballistic missile
Meanwhile Russia urged calm and warned Pyongyang to 'refrain from any actions that lead to a further escalation of tension'.
Photographs released Saturday night appeared to show Kim signing the order to carry out the test blast, which seismologists calculate was eight times as damaging as the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the US in World War II.
The shock news was delivered on state television by veteran anchor Ri Chun-hee - who has become the face of North Korean media after delivering major propaganda announcements from the rogue state for the past 40 years.
A statement from the country read: 'Scientists in the nuclear field of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] successfully carried out a test of H-bomb for ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] in the northern nuclear test ground of the DPRK at 12:00 on September 2, true to the Workers' Party of Korea's plan for building a strategic nuclear force.'
Just hours earlier, the country claimed it had developed a more advanced nuclear weapon with 'great destructive power'.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said it had detected a seismic wave from 12.34pm to 12.36pm on Sunday around Punggye-ri.
The hydrogen bomb's power is adjustable and can be detonated at high altitudes, North Korea said (Kim pictured in photos released Sunday)
The country's weather agency and the Joint Chiefs of Staff said an artificial 5.7 magnitude quake occurred at 12.29pm local time, in Kilju, northern Hamgyong province, the site where North Korea has conducted nuclear tests in the past.
Seoul officials revised their earlier estimate of 5.6 magnitude quake. The U.S. Geological Survey called the first quake an explosion with a magnitude of 6.3.
South Korea's presidential office also said it would hold a National Security Council meeting chaired by President Moon Jae-in.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said: 'It is absolutely unacceptable if North Korea did force another nuclear test, and we must protest strongly.'
China's earthquake administration detected a second tremor of magnitude 4.6 in North Korea minutes after the first.
It described the event as a cave-in. South Korea's weather agency, however, said no second quake happened.
A US researcher told the BBC that if the earthquake was caused by a nuclear blast, it would be the largest atomic test conducted by North Korea.
Citizens of the North Korean capital Pyongyang gathered around a screen showing the order signed by Kim Jong-Un authorising the nuclear test
Dave Schmerler, of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, added: 'We should definitely be alarmed.'
Japan's Ministry of Defence has dispatched three military jets to test for radiation despite North Korea's claims that radioactive material did not leak into the environment.
Tremors caused by the nuclear test were at least ten times as powerful as the last time Pyongyang exploded an atomic bomb a year ago, the Japan Meteorological Agency said at a briefing aired by public broadcaster NHK.
The previous nuclear blast in North Korea is estimated by experts to have been around 10 kilotons.
South Korea's defense committee says the blast was about 100 kilotons - powerful enough to destroy an entire city, BBC reports.
Residents in the Vladivostok in eastern Russia said they felt the tremors.
North Korea conducted its fifth test last September - which also caused a massive earthquake.
NORTH KOREA'S MISSILE DEVELOPMENT
Photos released on Sunday show the country's leader inspecting the hydrogen bomb that it says will be loaded on a new intercontinental ballistic missile.
Its power is adjustable and can be detonated at high altitudes, the regime claimed - and added that it can build as many of the nuclear weapons as it wishes.
In the report about the new bomb Kim was seen inspecting, North Korea's Korean Central News Agency added: 'Kim Jong-un said he felt the pride at the indomitably bolstering up of [North Korea's] nuclear forces despite a great price as he watched the Juche-oriented thermonuclear weapon with super explosive power made by our own efforts and technology.
'He expressed great satisfaction over the fact that our scientists can do anything without fail if the party is determined to do.
'The scientists further upgraded its technical performance at a higher ultra-modern level on the basis of precious successes made in the first H-bomb test.'
There will be some skepticism about the claim from experts about Pyongyang's assertion that it has mastered hydrogen technology.
Still, North Korea is increasingly putting leaders on edge as the isolated country continues to push its limits in regards to building up weaponry and firing off missiles.
This picture released by the North Korean government late last week shows the last test launch by the country
In a show of force with South Korea, Trump conducted bombing drills along the border on Thursday, in a clear warning to following another ballistic missile from Kim Jong-un launch earlier this week.
Korean Central News Agency denounced the military drills in robust fashion that same day, calling them 'the rash act of those taken aback' by the missile test, which it described as 'the first military operation in the Pacific.'
LONG-RANGE ROCKETS READY 'IN MONTHS'
North Korea last year conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests, saying the fourth in January 2016 was a successful hydrogen bomb test, although outside experts questioned whether it was a full-fledged hydrogen bomb.
The fifth nuclear test in September 2016 was measured to be possibly North Korea's biggest detonation ever, but the earthquake it caused was still not believed to be big enough to demonstrate a thermonuclear test.
Satellite images taken last month suggested North Korea was ready to carry out a sixth nuclear bomb test.
The overhead pictures of Punggye-ri nuclear test site, in the country's north east revealed Kim Jong-un could order a test blast 'at any time with minimal advance warning', experts said.
There were fears the tyrant may chose September 9, North Korea's Day of the Foundation of the Republic, to carry out the trial.
The same date was chosen last year by North Korea to conduct its fifth nuclear test, marking the 68 years since Kim Il-sung came to power.
Instead, the explosion came a week earlier.
Satellite pictures released by 38 North showed minor movements at Punggye-ri - suggesting that the site was on 'standby'.
The satellite images from August 27 suggested North Korea was ready to carry out a sixth nuclear bomb test
The facility in north eastern North Korea remains on 'standby', according to experts
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Trump comes out fighting and agrees to 'military response' after North Korea celebrates its most powerful nuclear test ever and sparks 6.3 magnitude quake
- Donald Trump has warned that North Korean officials 'only understand one thing'
- He also complained that appeasement 'will not work' in the dramatic tweets
- US and South Korean leaders are now discussing 'military measures' to be taken
- They will 'show their powerful response through action,' Joint Chiefs of Staff said
- North Korea detonated hydrogen bomb sparking powerful 6.3 magnitude quake
- Terrifying tremor was detected in northeast near the Punggye-ri test site
- Blast directly ordered by Kim Jong-Un and was large enough to destroy a city
- South Korea pledges to deploy most powerful US tactical weapons in response
- It comes hours after regime said it developed more advanced nuclear weapon Donald Trump has dismissed attempts to 'appease' North Korea and warned that the rogue state's officials 'only understand one thing' in a string of tweets following the detonation of a hydrogen bomb in the country.
South Korea holds military exercises aimed at defending island just miles from North Korea's shore to counter threats from Pyongyang
- South Korean marines participated in a military exercises on the border island of Baengnyeong on Wednesday
- Wednesday's drills involved six brigades, AH-1S helicopters and Korea Amphibious Assault Vehicles (KAAV)
- On Thursday, South Korea and the US completed the deployment of the US missile defense system, THAAD
- The THAAD deployment was met with demonstrations by residents and a diplomatic protest from Beijing South Korea and the United States on Thursday completed the deployment of a US missile defense system to counter North Korean threats - a day after conducting military exercises aimed to defend a front-line island.