WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - President Donald Trump on Sunday (Sept 3) called North Korea's biggest nuclear test to date "very hostile and dangerous", but his most significant rhetorical escalation was against South Korea, a close US ally, which he accused of talking about "appeasement."
Trump expressed his frustration in three sternly worded tweets early Sunday that were more muted than the previous taunts and threats he has directed at North Korea's young leader Kim Jong Un.
"North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States," he wrote at 7.30 am, about 10 hours after reports of a huge explosion, measured by US authorities at a magnitude of 6.3, was detected in the area of a nuclear test site in the North.
Trump placed responsibility for responding to the crisis on North Korea's closest neighbors, China and South Korea.
But he took a notably harsh line on Twitter against the new liberal government of President Moon Jae In of South Korea, amid an escalating dispute over trade that threatens to weaken a central partnership in the region as North Korea races to develop a nuclear warhead capable of striking the continental United States.
Moon has proposed military talks with the North, though Trump warned last week that "talking is not the answer."
"South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!" Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
He was somewhat gentler in his criticism of North Korea's primary patron, China, which has provided North Korea with an economic and diplomatic lifeline for decades.
"North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success," Trump wrote.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday that he planned to draft a new sanctions package that would cut economic ties with anyone who did business with North Korea.
Trump threatened on Sunday to stop "all trade with any country doing business with North Korea," an extremely unlikely prospect that, if carried out, would have cataclysmic consequences for the global economy.
The president, asked as he left a church service whether he planned to attack North Korea, said: "We'll see."