The United States says North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is “begging for war” following the rogue state’s most powerful nuclear test to date.
The American ambassador the UN, Nikki Haley, said her country did not want a conflict with the Pyongyang regime but its patience was “not unlimited”.
Addressing the UN Security Council, Ms Haley said “enough is enough” on North Korea and warned that its approach of imposing “incremental” sanctions against the secretive nation had not worked.
The US envoy urged the 15-member council, which is discussing the crisis, to adopt the “strongest possible measures”.
According to South Korea’s defence ministry, the North appears to be preparing for the launch of ballistic missiles, possibly intercontinental.
It comes after the rogue state detonated what it called a hydrogen bomb on Sunday – its sixth and biggest nuclear detonation.
The regime said the test was a “perfect success” and involved a bomb designed to be mounted on its newly-developed intercontinental ballistic missile.
The device, which is thought to have been about five times larger than the bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki in World War II, caused a manmade earthquake.
Ms Haley said: “Despite our efforts the North Korea nuclear programme is more advanced and more dangerous than ever.
“War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited.”
America’s defence secretary, General James Mattis, said on Sunday any threat to the US, its territories or its allies by Pyongyang would be met with a “massive military response”.
He said America was “not looking to the total annihilation” of the North but “we have many options to do so”.
South Korea will now ramp up its own military response.
Since Sunday the South has fired missiles into the sea to simulate an attack on the North’s main nuclear testing site.
It is also preparing fresh military drills with the US.
The latest test by the Pyongyang regime came less than a week after the council strongly condemned the North’s “outrageous” launch of a ballistic missile over Japan.
Meanwhile, China, which is the North biggest trading partner, has said Presient Trump’s threat to cut off trade with countries that deal with the North is unacceptable.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it was not fair – as Beijing had worked on resolving the North Korea issue via talks and that effort was not being recognised.
China’s UN envoy Liu Jieyi has warned it will not allow chaos and war on the Korean peninsula.
He said the situation on the peninsula was “deteriorating constantly, falling into a vicious circle”.
He urged the North to “stop taking actions that are wrong”.
And he called on all parties to “seriously consider” Beijing’s proposal for a joint suspension of Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes and military drills by the US and South Korea.