North Korea’s foreign minister said yesterday that United States President Donald Trump had declared war on North Korea and that Pyongyang reserves the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down U.S. bombers even if they are not in its air space.
Ri Yong Ho said a Twitter message by Trump at the weekend in which the president warned that the minister and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer” if they acted on their threats, amounted to a declaration of war.
“The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” Ri told reporters in New York. 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,” Ri said.
“The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then,” Ri said. U.S. Treasury yields fell to session lows after Ri’s comments yesterday. The Pentagon said the bomber flight indicated the range of military options available to Trump, but U.S. officials have repeatedly stressed that despite the war or words, the administration prefers a negotiated solution to the crisis.
Pentagon spokesman Manning responded to Ri’s warning about shooting down U.S. bombers by saying it would provide the president with options to deal with North Korea if its provocations continued. The latest round of heavy verbal salvoes began when Trump threatened in his maiden U.N. address last Tuesday to “totally destroy” North Korea, a country of 26 million people, if it threatened the United States or its allies.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said yesterday that the only solution to the crisis was a political one. “Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. China, North Korea’s neighbor and main ally, which has nevertheless backed U.N. sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, called on Monday for all sides in the crisis to show restraint and not “add oil to the flames.”
In an unprecedented direct statement yesterday, Kim responded by calling Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” whom he would tame with fire.
Kim said North Korea would consider the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the United States and that Trump’s comments had confirmed his nuclear program was “the correct path”.
At the weekend, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighters flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea in a show of force after a heated exchange of rhetoric between Trump and Kim over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
The Pentagon said the flight was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea that any U.S. fighter jet or bomber has flown in the 21st century.
“That operation was conducted in international airspace, over international waters, so we have the right to fly, sail and operate where legally permissible around the globe,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning said yesterday.
North Korea, which has remained technically at war with the United States since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce not a peace treaty, has been working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the U.S. mainland and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test this month.