SEOUL/NEW YORK — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un blasted U.S. President Donald Trump as “mentally deranged” on Friday and vowed to make him pay dearly for threatening to destroy his country, hours after Trump ordered fresh sanctions over Pyongyang’s weapons programs.
Tensions have risen as North Korea has resisted intense international pressure to halt its nuclear and missile programs, with Trump and Kim exchanging ever-more threatening rhetoric.
The U.S. president said in his first address to the United Nations on Tuesday he would “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people if the North threatened the United States and its allies, and called Kim a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.
Kim said the North would consider the “highest level of hardline countermeasure in history” against the United States and that Trump’s comments had confirmed his nuclear program was “the correct path.”
Pyongyang conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test on September 3 and has launched dozens of missiles this year as it accelerates a program aimed at enabling it to target the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile.
Kim said Trump would face “results beyond his expectation,” without specifying what action North Korea would take next.
“I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” Kim said in the rare direct statement carried by the KCNA state news agency, referring to Trump.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho was asked what Kim might do and said Pyongyang could consider a hydrogen bomb test on the Pacific Ocean of an unprecedented scale, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
Ri, who was talking to reporters in New York, however said he did not know Kim’s exact thoughts, according to the report.
The escalating rhetoric came even as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for statesmanship to avoid “sleepwalking” into a war.
South Korea, Russia and China all urged calm.
However, the rhetoric was starting to rattle some in the international community. French Sports Minister Laura Flessel said France’s team would not travel to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea if its security cannot be guaranteed.
The 2018 Games are to be staged in Pyeongchang, just 80 kilometers from the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, the world’s most heavily armed border.
In his sanctions announcement on Thursday, Trump stopped short of going after Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner, China, praising as “tremendous” a move by its central bank ordering Chinese banks to stop doing business with North Korea.
The additional sanctions on Pyongyang, including on its shipping and trade networks, showed that Trump was giving more time for economic pressures to weigh on North Korea after warning about the possibility of military action on Tuesday.
Asked ahead of a lunch meeting with the leaders of Japan and South Korea if diplomacy was still possible, Trump nodded and said: “Why not?”
Trump said the new executive order on sanctions gives further authorities to target individual companies and institutions that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea.