US denies it has declared war on North Korea as tensions rise

Pyongyang says it has a right to shoot down US jets amid war of words with Trump

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders rejects the assertion by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho that the US has declared war on North Korea. Video: Reuters

 

Tensions between North Korea and the US escalated yesterday after North Korea’s foreign minister accused president Donald Trump of declaring war.

In New York, Ri Yong Ho claimed North Korea has the right to shoot down US jets, significantly raising the stakes between the countries.

“The whole world should clearly remember it was the US who first declared war on our country,” Mr Ri said. “Since the US declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down US strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country.”

The inflammatory comments from Pyongyang come a day after Mr Trump warned that the North Korean leadership “might not be around much longer” – the latest barb in an increasingly hostile war of words with the regime of Kim Jong-un.

The two leaders have traded insults in recent days, with the US president calling the North Korean leader a “madman”, and Mr Kim calling Mr Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard”.

Nuclear capabilities

Tensions between the two powers have increased in recent months amid alarm in Washington at North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear capabilities.

On Saturday, US bombers flew close to the North Korean coast in a move designed to show the range of military options open to the US, according to the Pentagon.

The White House also announced on Sunday that North Korea has been added to a list of countries covered by Mr Trump’s travel ban.

In Washington yesterday, a Pentagon spokesman warned that “if North Korea does not stop their provocative actions . . . we will make sure we provide options to the president to deal with North Korea”.

But the White House and State Department rejected suggestions that war had been declared.

“We’ve not declared war on North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

The UN has warned that the heated language increased the risk of confrontation.