North Korea’s foreign minister on Monday accused President Donald Trump of declaring war, saying that gives the rogue regime the right to shoot down U.S. strategic bombers.
Pyongyang could target planes even when they are not flying in North Korean airspace, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York.
“The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” he said.
“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country,” he added.
On Saturday, American bombers flew in international airspace east of North Korea in a symbolic show of military force.
The comments come amid an escalation of rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington as the international community tries to end North Korean nuclear and missile programs. Trump’s first appearance at the United Nations General Assembly last week prompted a string of harsh warnings and threats.
Later Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “we have not declared war on North Korea,” calling the suggestion “absurd.”
It culminated Saturday in Trump saying the North Korean regime “won’t be around much longer” if Ri “echoes thoughts” of dictator Kim Jong Un, whom Trump maligned as “Little Rocket Man.”
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Ri claimed on Monday that the comment was a declaration of war. In response, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning said the Defense Department would give Trump options to “deal with North Korea” if provocations continue.
Ri also inflamed tensions following Trump’s defiant remarks to the U.N. last week. On Saturday, he called Trump “President Evil” and claimed that economic sanctions will not deter Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and a “balance of power with the U.S.”
Trump on Tuesday said the U.S. would have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea” if it is forced to defend itself or its allies. The president and his top advisors have repeatedly said they could take military action in response to a string of missile tests, but prefer a diplomatic resolution.
On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order expanding his authority to target people and institutions that do business with North Korea. He hopes the measure will help to cut off Pyongyang’s funding sources for its nuclear and missile programs.
The central bank in China — North Korea’s only major ally — also told its banks to strictly implement U.N. sanctions.
The American sanctions followed unanimous economic sanctions packages imposed by the U.N. Security Council.
Trump has said he supports the “complete denuclearization” of North Korea.