The North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho said: “The whole world should clearly remember it was the US who first declared war on our country.” He referred in particular to Trump’s tweet on Sunday that warned that the regime’s leaders “won’t be around much longer”.
In his first address to the UN last Tuesday, Trump had also warned that if the US and its allies were attacked, he would “totally destroy” North Korea. Ri said the UN and the international community had hoped that the war of words between the two countries would not turn into “real action”.
“However, last weekend Trump claimed that our leadership won’t be around much longer, and hence at last he declared war on our country,” Ri said, speaking to journalists through an interpreter outside the UN general assembly in New York. “Given the fact that this came from someone who holds the seat of the US presidency, this is clearly a declaration of war.”
Ri added: “Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make counter-measures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country.
“The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then.
The US denied it had declared war but warned it had military options if North Korea does take further “provocative” actions.
“Frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“Our goal is still the same: we continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” she said. “That’s our focus – doing that through both the most maximum economic and diplomatic pressures as possible at this point.”
Katina Adams, a spokeswoman for the state department, said “The United States has not ‘declared war’ on North Korea. We continue to seek a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. No nation has the right to fire on other nations’ aircraft or ships in international airspace or waters.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said it had the right to fly sorties off the North Korean coast and would continue to do so. Col Robert Manning, a defence department spokesman said that the US had weighed military options in confronting the threat from North Korea.