SEOUL, South Korea — Responding directly for the first time to President Trump’s threat at the United Nations to destroy nuclear-armed North Korea, its leader called Mr. Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” on Friday and vowed the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”
The rejoinder by the leader, Kim Jong-un, who is about half as old as Mr. Trump, 71, added to the lexicon of Mr. Kim’s choice of insults in the escalating bombast between the two.
“A frightened dog barks louder,” Mr. Kim said in a statement, referring to Mr. Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in which he vowed to annihilate North Korea if the United States were forced to defend itself or its allies against it.
“He is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician,” Mr. Kim said.
His statement, carried by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday morning in Pyongyang, the North’s capital, was his first direct response to Mr. Trump’s speech.
Mr. Kim’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, who arrived in New York on Wednesday to attend the General Assembly, also called Mr. Trump “a dog barking.”
Asked by reporters in New York what Mr. Kim might have meant by the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure,” Mr. Ri said that only Mr. Kim would know, but that he thought the North might be considering the largest test of a hydrogen bomb ever in the Pacific Ocean, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
In his United Nations speech, Mr. Trump called North Korea’s autocracy a “band of criminals” and Mr. Kim a “Rocket Man” on “a suicide mission.”
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” he said.
Although Mr. Kim is often quoted by official North Korean news media, it is highly unusual for him to issue a statement in his name. In North Korea, the supreme leader’s statement carries a weight that surpasses any other formal document.
Mr. Kim, who has been accelerating his country’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles in defiance of the United Nations, Washington and its allies, said Mr. Trump’s remarks had convinced him that “the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.”
“Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy” North Korea, Mr. Kim said, “we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”
“Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say,” he added. “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire.”
Mr. Kim did not elaborate other than to say his future actions would be “beyond” Mr. Trump’s expectation.
North Korea flight-tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, the last of which demonstrated the potential of reaching the mainland United States. It has also fired two intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japan in recent weeks. On Sept. 3, the country detonated what it called a hydrogen bomb in its sixth and most powerful underground nuclear test.
North Korea has recently threatened to launch missiles in an “enveloping fire” in waters around Guam, an American territory and home to major United States military bases. Mr. Kim has also warned that his country would conduct more missiles tests in the Pacific.
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