Washington (CNN)North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Monday accused US President Donald Trump of declaring war on his nation by conversing over the weekend that North Korea “won’t be around much longer.”
“Last weekend Trump claimed that our leadership wouldn’t be around much longer and declared a war on our country,” Ri said, according to an official translation of his remarks to reporters in New York.
“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make all self-defensive counter measures, including the right to shoot down the United States strategic bombers at any time even when they are not yet inside the aerospace border of our country,” Ri said.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that the US has not declared war on North Korea, adding, “Frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd.”
Sanders said it’s “never appropriate” to take down another country’s aircraft in international waters and the government plans to continue to safeguard the region.
Earlier on Monday, State Department spokesperson Katina Adams told CNN that the US seeks a “peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
But the US military “will take all options to make sure that we safeguard our allies and our partners and our homeland so if North Korea does not stop their provocative actions we’ll make sure we provide options to the President to deal with North Korea,” according to Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.
Asked about Ri’s charge that Trump’s remarks were a declaration of war, Manning, stated: “Our job as the Department of Defense is as you know is to make sure that the President is provided military options, we’ll continue to do that, and we have a deep arsenal of military options to provide the President so then he can decide how he wants to deal with North Korea and the regime.”
“We are postured and we are ready to fight tonight,” he added.
The US Navy will also continue to keep its presence near the Korean peninsula despite the most recent round of harsh rhetoric and threats of a military strike from Pyongyang.
Two US defense officials told CNN on Monday that the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier will run scheduled naval marine exercises with the South Korean navy off the peninsula at the end of October.
While the officials said the exercises are long scheduled and not in reaction to recent tensions, similar exercises have prompted strong condemnation from North Korea before.
War of words
The continuing war of words between the two countries also saw a number of new fiery salvos on Saturday, a day when the US military, in a show of force, flew bombers in international airspace over waters east of North Korea and the discovery of mysterious seismic activity refueled concerns within the rogue nation’s nuclear ambitions.
Speaking at the UN on Saturday, Ri said that Trump had made a missile attack on the US mainland inescapable by insulting the dignity of North Korea.
“None other than Trump himself is on a suicide mission,” Ri said in a speech at the UN General Assembly. “In case innocent lives of the US are harmed because of this suicide attack, Trump will be held totally responsible.”
Trump took on Twitter Saturday night to respond to Ri’s remarks.
“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!” Trump wrote.
The US and North Korea exchanged a series of verbal volleys a week since the UN met in New York.
In his address Tuesday, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the US was forced to defend itself or an ally. He then tweeted on Friday that Kim was “obviously a madman” who would be “tested like never before.”
Kim responded to the US President’s speech in a rare televised statement in which he stated Trump would “pay dearly” for the dangers and accused him of being “mentally deranged.”
Shortly after Kim’s televised speech, North Korea’s foreign minister said his country could test a strong nuclear weapon within the Pacific Ocean in response to Trump’s threats of military action.
The US army sent its own message to Pyongyang on Saturday as B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam and F-15C Eagle fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan, flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea, according to the Pentagon.
“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.
“North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”
The bomber flights are a common response to North Korean activities that the United States and its allies perceive as hostile.
A key part of the US army’s “tip of the spear,” US B-1 bombers have been seen regularly over the Korean Peninsula lately amid escalating tensions with Pyongyang — conducting regular training flights with Japanese and South Korean fighter jets that often provoke the ire of the North Korean regime.
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