World

Kim calls Trump 'mad, senile old man'

Insults continue as N. Korean-US tensions escalate after Mr Trump's UN speech

SEOUL/NEW YORK: North Korea said yesterday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after US President Donald Trump vowed to destroy the reclusive country.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has hit back, "promising to make Trump pay dearly for his threats".

Mr Kim did not specify what action he would take against the US or Mr Trump, whom he called a "mentally deranged US dotard" in the latest bout of insults the two leaders have traded in recent weeks.

The obscure word "dotard" is old - late Middle English - and means senile old person, someone in their dotage.

Although writers Shakespeare and Tolkien have used it, it is rarely heard these days.

That may change, however, given the arrival yesterday of #dotard on Twitter.

In a rare personal attack published hours after Washington announced tougher sanctions, the North Korean leader took aim at Mr Trump over his maiden speech to the UN General Assembly in which he branded Kim "Rocket Man" and threatened to "totally destroy North Korea".

Mr Trump "insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history", Mr Kim said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

"I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the US pay dearly for his speech," which Mr Kim called "unprecedented rude nonsense".

The US president responded with another message yesterday on Twitter.

"Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before," Mr Trump said, a day after announcing additional sanctions on Pyongyang.

Asked about the North Korean hydrogen bomb threat, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told ABC that diplomatic efforts will continue but all military options are still on the table.

"We are quite challenged" with the escalating rhetoric, he said but hoped increased sanctions and "voices from every corner of the world" would help lead Mr Kim to talks.

At the UN, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for statesmanship to avoid "sleepwalking" into a war.

Detonating a nuclear-tipped missile over the Pacific Ocean would be a logical final step by North Korea to prove the success of its weapons programme but would be extremely provocative and carry huge risks, arms control experts said yesterday.

"It may mean North Korea will fire a warhead-tipped (intermediate range) Hwasong-12 or Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile and blow it up a few hundred kilometres above the Pacific Ocean," said Mr Yang Uk, a senior researcher at the Korea Defence and Security Forum in Seoul.

He said: "They may be bluffing, but there is a need for them to test their combined missile-bomb capability. They could have already prepared the plan and are now trying to use Mr Trump's remarks as an excuse to make it happen."

North Korea's six nuclear tests to date have all been underground, the most recent earlier this month by far its largest.

"We have to assume they 'could' do it, but it is exceedingly provocative," said Mr Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"To put a live nuclear warhead on a missile that has only been tested a handful of times, overflying potentially populated centres.

"If it... doesn't go exactly as planned.... it could be a world-changing event."- WIRES

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