North Korea calls Trump’s comments a ‘declaration of war’

White House dismisses suggestion as absurd, saying: ‘We have not declared war’

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says: ‘Frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd’. Photograph: AFP/Mandel Ngan

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says: ‘Frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd’. Photograph: AFP/Mandel Ngan

 

The White House has dismissed a claim by North Korea’s top diplomat that a tweet by Donald Trump was a declaration of war. “We have not declared war” on Pyongyang, it said. “Frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd,” Sarah Sanders, the US president’s press secretary, told reporters.

Earlier North Korea’s foreign minister escalated tensions with the United States, saying that Mr Trump’s threatening comments about the country and its leadership were “a declaration of war” and that North Korea had the right to shoot down American warplanes, even if they are not in North Korean airspace.

The comments by the country’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, came as he was about to leave the United Nations after a week of General Assembly meetings in New York. Referring to Mr Trump’s assertion that the North Korean leadership may not “be around much longer”, Mr Ri said at a news conference that the question of “who would be around much longer will be answered” by North Korea.

Mr Ri, speaking two days after American warplanes flew close to the North Korean coast, added that “in light of the declaration of war by Trump, all options will be on the operations table of the supreme leadership” of his country.

On Saturday Mr Ri told the UN General Assembly that targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after “Mr Evil President” Trump called Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong-un, a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.

North Korea: Ri Yong-ho said targeting the US with rockets was inevitable after “Mr Evil President” Trump called Pyongyang’s leader a “rocket man”. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty
North Korea: Ri Yong-ho said targeting the US with rockets was inevitable after “Mr Evil President” Trump called Pyongyang’s leader a “rocket man”. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

“Rocket Man”

“Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” Mr Trump said on Twitter late on Saturday.

The Pentagon said on Monday that it could present the US president with a range of responses. “If North Korea does not stop their provocative actions, you know, we will make sure that we provide options to the president to deal with North Korea,” Col Robert Manning told reporters.

The United Nations’ secretary general, António Guterres, warned that a rise in rhetoric between North Korea and the United States increased the risk of miscalculations. “Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings,” a UN spokesman told reporters . “The only solution for this is a political solution.”

US bombers: a B-1B being refuelled over the East China Sea; US and South Korean aircraft flew off the east coast of North Korea on Saturday in a show of force. Photograph: Peter Reft/USAF/AFP/Getty
US bombers: a B-1B being refuelled over the East China Sea; US and South Korean aircraft flew off the east coast of North Korea on Saturday in a show of force. Photograph: Peter Reft/USAF/AFP/Getty

“Reckless behaviour”

The Pentagon said at the weekend that the US air force had sent B-1B bombers and F-15C fighters over waters north of the demilitarised zone that separates the two Koreas, in response to what it called the North Korean government’s “reckless behaviour”.

It was the farthest north “any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century”, according to the US department of defence.

Mr Kim had said last week, “Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy the DPRK” – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – “we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

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