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(3rd LD) N.K. leader warns Trump of 'highest-level' actions over his U.N. speech

11:14 September 22, 2017

(ATTN: REWRITES lead; UPDATES with more info throughout)

SEOUL, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to take the "highest-level" action in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's threat to "totally destroy" the North over its nuclear and missile programs, the North's media said Friday.

In a rare statement issued by a leader of the reclusive state, Kim condemned Trump for using "eccentric words" at the U.N. General Assembly that insulted him and his country, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

"We will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history," the English-language statement read, saying that Trump made a declaration of war.

In an address to the U.N. on Tuesday, Trump said that he could "totally destroy" the regime in the face of its nuclear and ballistic missile threats. He called Kim a "rocket man on a suicide mission."

In a tit-for-tat reaction, the North's leader warned that the U.S. will "pay dearly" for Trump's speech.

"Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire," Kim said.

He did not elaborate on what measures would be taken, but North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said in New York that North Korea may consider the most powerful test of a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.

This photo carried by North Korea's state news agency on July 29, 2017, shows North Korea's firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile a day earlier. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Tensions have risen amid North Korea's continued provocations, including its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, in defiance of international condemnation. The wayward regime fired intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) twice in July.

The international community is stepping up their sanctions and pressure on Pyongyang. Trump announced new sanctions on the North on Thursday that target individuals and entities facilitating trade and finance with the North.

The U.N. Security Council slapped new tougher sanctions on Pyongyang last week that include a freeze on North Korea's oil imports at the current level and a ban on its textile exports.

North Korea condemned the fresh sanctions, vowing to strengthen its nuclear program at a faster pace.

Trump's bellicose warning convinced North Korea that "the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last," Kim said in a pledge to complete his country's nuclear force.

North Korea is seeking to develop an ICBM capable of reaching the continental U.S.

In August, Trump warned of "fire and fury" for Pyongyang after the ICBM tests. Pyongyang threatened to fire a salvo of missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam though it later withheld it.

The U.S. has said that all options, including a military strike, are on the table, but it will seek a peaceful solution to North Korea's nuclear issue until it becomes necessary to use military force.

Experts said that it is likely to further make provocative acts, including an ICBM test.

Seoul's spy agency earlier said that the North could lob an ICBM on a standard trajectory toward the Pacific Ocean around its founding anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea on Oct. 10.

The North's relentless provocations will likely further dampen President Moon Jae-in's efforts to seek sanctions and dialogue to resolve North Korea's nuke issues.

The North has so far rejected Seoul's offer for dialogues and inter-Korean exchanges, claiming that pressure and talks cannot go together.

"North Korea should immediately stop its reckless provocations that will lead to its own isolation and fall. It should come to the negotiation table for denuclearization," Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman at Seoul's unification ministry, told a regular press briefing.

This photo carried by North Korea's state news agency on Sept. 22, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reading his statement condemning U.S. President Donald Trump for threatening to "totally destroy" the North. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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