NEW YORK: North Korea’s foreign minister accused US President Donald Trump on Monday of declaring war on his country and warned that Pyongyang would defend itself by shooting down US bombers.
“Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer,” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told reporters outside his hotel in New York. “He declared a war on our country.”
“All the member states and the whole world should clearly remember it was the United States that first declared war on our country,” Ri said.
“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take counter-measures including the right to shoot down US strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country,” he said.
“The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then.”
In his first address to the General Assembly, Trump last week threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it challenged America or its allies and derided leader Kim Jong-un as a “rocket man” who was “on a suicide mission.”
Ri noted that the statement from Trump was “clearly a declaration of war” even if it came from the US president. Under the US Constitution, Congress is the sole power that can declare war.
In his brief address to reporters before heading to the airport, Ri said that the international community had hoped that the “war of words between the DPRK and the United States not turn into real actions.”
The North Korean nuclear crisis has dominated this year’s gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, which wraps up on Monday, amid fears that the heated rhetoric could accidentally trigger a war.
North Korea in recent weeks detonated its sixth nuclear bomb and has test-fired intercontinental missiles — saying it needs to defend itself against hostility from the United States and its allies.
During his address to the General Assembly on Saturday, Ri launched a personal attack on Trump, calling him a “mentally deranged person full of megalomania.”
Just hours before Ri took the UN podium, US bombers flew off the east coast of North Korea, the furthest north of the demilitarized zone that any US aircraft has flown this century.
The Pentagon said the mission was a “demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the president has many military options to defeat any threat.”
Trump’s threat to destroy North Korea made “our rockets’ visit to the entire US mainland all the more inevitable,” Ri said on Saturday. AFP