(CNN)North Korea could test a powerful nuclear weapon over the Pacific Ocean in response to US President Donald Trump's threats of military action, the country's foreign minister has warned.
Ri Yong Ho spoke to reporters in New York shortly after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made an unprecedented televised statement, accusing Trump of being "mentally deranged."
The forceful rhetoric from Pyongyang came after Trump threatened to"totally destroy" North Korea in a speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Trump tweeted Friday that Kim was "obviously a madman" who would be "tested like never before."
In a rare direct statement delivered straight to camera, Kim said that Trump would "pay dearly" for the threats, and that North Korea "will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history."
"I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue," Kim said. "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire."
Kim said Trump's comments were reflective of "mentally deranged behavior."
Hours later, Kim's foreign minister told reporters in New York that Pyongyang could launch a nuclear missile test in response. "This could probably mean the strongest hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean. Regarding which measures to take, I don't really know since it is what Kim Jong Un does," said Ri.
--What Would a Hydrogen Bomb Do to the Pacific Ocean?
The latest fiery exchange between the United States and North Korea has produced a new kind of threat. On Tuesday, during his speech at the United Nations, President Trump said his government would “totally destroy North Korea” if necessary to defend the United States or its allies. On Friday, Kim Jong Un responded, saying North Korea “will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”
The North Korean leader didn’t elaborate on the nature of this countermeasure, but his foreign minister provided a hint: North Korea might test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.
“It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told reporters at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”
North Korea has so far conducted nuclear tests in underground chambers and ballistic-missile tests in the sky. Conducting a hydrogen-bomb test in the ocean could mean putting a nuclear warhead on top of a ballistic missile and launching them together toward the sea. If North Korea followed through, the test would be the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere in nearly 40 years. It would lead to—aside from untold geopolitical consequences—severe environmental impacts.
Hydrogen bombs are far more powerful than atomic bombs, capable of producing many times more explosive energy. If an H-bomb hits the Pacific, it will detonate with a blinding flash and produce the signature mushroom cloud. The immediate effects likely would depend on the height of the detonation above the water. The initial blast could kill most of the life in the strike zone—scores of fish and other marine life—instantly. When the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, the entire population located within a radius of 1,600 feet (500 meters) perished.
The explosion would send radioactive dust and ash flying through the air and into the water. Wind could carry the dangerous particles over hundreds of miles.MARINA KOREN