NORTH Korea's escalation of its nuclear arms race would mean just a four-minute buffer between the rogue state's unhinged dictator hitting the launch button and the complete obliteration of Tokyo.
South Korea last night warned its long-time enemy could even be preparing another intercontinental missile launch as an international relations expert said if dictator Kim Jong-un followed through on his threats, at most US President Donald Trump would have just minutes to decide how to respond.
The United Nations Security Council scrambled into its second emergency session in the space of a week yesterday following the hermit nation's claims to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.
The US used the meeting to call for the "strongest possible measures" on North Korea, as China and Russia argued diplomatic talks were needed to address the crisis.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Washington will present a new sanctions resolution to the council to be negotiated in the coming days, with a view of voting on it next Monday.
"Only the strongest sanctions will enable us to resolve this problem through diplomacy," Ms Haley told an emergency council meeting called by the US, Britain, France, Japan and South Korea.
Declaring that "enough is enough," Ms Haley said incremental sanctions imposed on Pyongyang since 2006 had failed and accused dictator Kim Jong-un of "begging for war."
"War is never something the United States wants. We don't want it now. But our country's patience is not unlimited," she declared. "North Korea has basically slapped everyone in the face in the international community that has asked them to stop."
Ms Haley did not spell out what measures Washington was seeking, but diplomats said they could target oil supplies to North Korea - potentially dealing a major blow to the economy.
Meanwhile, South Korea is set to be armed with more military weapons from the US including the installation of four additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) launchers to counter the growing missile threat from North Korea.
Both Moscow and Beijing angrily reacted to the sudden deployment of the missile interceptor system near China's borders, saying it would further complicate the North Korean crisis as well as spark a new missile technology arms race between the three superpowers.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, meanwhile, a blunt assessment: "This is the most dangerous moment in time on the Korean peninsula since the end of the Korean War."
The North Koreans also claimed they had managed to produce a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit on to its intercontinental ballistic missile, which has the range to hit the US mainland or Sydney in just 30 minutes.
A hydrogen bomb has 1000 times more power than an atomic bomb similar to the one that killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima in WWII.
"Much is at stake. The conduct of this regime, the reckless and illegal conduct of this regime, cannot be rewarded," said Mr Turnbull.
He called on China to enforce sanctions and bring the secretive Democratic People's Republic of Korea "to its senses".
The Prime Minister spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the two leaders have agreed to meet "at the soonest opportunity" with US President Donald Trump.
Defence Minister Marise Payne will leave tomorrow for talks in South Korea, which responded to the crisis yesterday by launching its own ballistic missiles in a test designed to "strongly warn" the North.
The drill involved surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and F-15K fighter jets hitting targets off the east coast of South Korea, simulating a strike on a target as far away as North Korea's nuclear test site, Punggye-ri.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis emerged from a security briefing with Mr Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to declare "we have many military options".
"We have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack. And our commitment among the allies is iron-clad," General Mattis said.
"Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming."
Australian National University international relations expert Dr Ben Zala said any missile launch from mad despot Kim Jong-un's rogue regime could result in an escalation to a nuclear war within minutes.
He said North Korea was capable of hitting Japan in just four minutes with a short range nuclear missile that would kill hundreds of thousands of people. However, Japan has the defensive capabilities of the Patriot ground to air missile defence system on land and the Aegis system at sea.
The North Koreans have also threatened that they could detonate a hydrogen bomb at high altitude to create an Electro Magnetic Pulse in an attempt to wipe out America's electricity grid.
Dr Zala said the US Ground Based Midcourse Defence System in Alaska and California has managed to shoot down an ICBM only once in trials.
Once missiles were in flight the US President would have just 30 minutes to decide how to respond. A defiant Mr Trump yesterday ramped up the rhetoric on Twitter, branding North Korea's "words and actions" as "very hostile and dangerous to the United States".
"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!" he said.
"The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea."
Mr Trump said the increased provocation had also strained relations between North Korea and Beijing.
"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," he tweeted. China yesterday said it had lodged an official protest with North Korea following the nuclear weapons test.
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