UNITED NATIONS —
North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Monday the United States has declared war on his country and Pyongyang would take counter-actions if threatened, including shooting down American war planes in the region.
Ri directly linked U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments Saturday night on social media platform Twitter to the threat.
In a tweet late Saturday responding to Ri’s United Nations General Assembly speech earlier in the day, Trump wrote: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!”
On Monday, North Korea's foreign minister responded:
“Given the fact that this comes from someone who is currently holding the seat of United States presidency, this is clearly a declaration of war," Ri told reporters outside his New York hotel. "All the member states participating in the United Nations and the whole world should clearly remember that it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country."
The North Korean foreign minister added, "we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down the United States strategic bombers, even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country,” he warned.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said "We've not declared war on North Korea," adding that the suggestion is "absurd."
At the Pentagon, spokesman Army Colonel Robert Manning told reporters, "If North Korea does not stop their provocative actions, we (the military) will make sure that we provide options to the president to deal with North Korea. We have the right to fly, sail and operate where legally permissible around the globe.”
On Saturday, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam escorted by F-16 fighter jets from a U.S. base in Japan flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea.
Manning said the show of force, meant to display some of the military options available to President Trump, was “the farthest north of the demilitarized zone any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century.”
“We are postured. We are ready to fight tonight,” the Pentagon spokesman noted, while declining to discuss any possible troop movements to the region in light of escalating tensions.
Rhetoric between North Korean leaders and Trump has escalated in the past week, both during and on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Describing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man” on a suicide mission, Trump used his maiden address to the UNGA last Tuesday to warn the Pyongyang regime that its current course could lead to "total destruction."
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called Trump a "dotard" expressing "mentally deranged behavior.”
Ri threatened Saturday his country could conduct an atmospheric hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis responded Monday that if North Korea carried out its threat, "This would be a shocking display of irresponsibility toward global health, toward stability, toward non-proliferation,"
William Gallo and Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report