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North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho speaks to the media outside the Millennium Hotel in New York.   © Reuters
Politics

North Korea accuses US of declaring war; drawing Washington scorn

Ri says possible countermeasures include shooting down US bombers

NEW YORK -- Accusing the U.S. of declaring war on North Korea, the country's foreign minister said Monday that Pyongyang has all options on the table, including shooting down American bombers not inside its airspace. The White House rejected North Korea's assertion the same day and ripped Pyongyang's talk of shooting down planes. 

"In light of the declaration of war by Trump all options will be on the operations table of the supreme leadership of the DPRK," Ri Yong Ho said in a prepared statement delivered in front of a New York hotel, using an acronym for the North's official name.

Ri cited a tweet by President Donald Trump on Saturday in which he suggested that Ri and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "won't be around much longer" -- a response to Ri's speech at the U.N. General Assembly earlier that day.

"Given the fact that this comes from someone who is holding the seat of the U.S. presidency, this is clearly a declaration of war," Ri said.

"Since the U.S. declared war on our country, we will have every right to take countermeasures, including the right to shoot down U.S. strategic bombers, even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country," Ri said. "The question of who will be around much longer will be answered then."

The White House quickly rejected Ri's comments. "Not at all. We've not declared war on North Korea. And frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a news briefing. "It's never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country's aircraft when it's over international waters.

"Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," she said.

Ri arrived in New York last week to represent the North at the General Assembly. In his speech to the assembly Saturday, Ri called Trump a "mentally deranged person full of megalomania and complacency," and suggested that North Korean missiles hitting the U.S. had become "inevitable all the more."

Just hours before Ri spoke at the U.N., U.S. bombers flew off the east coast of North Korea, the furthest north of the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea that any U.S. aircraft has flown this century, according to media reports.

North Korea has been moving aircraft and boosting its defenses on the country's east coast since the U.S. dispatched the bombers over the weekend, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported Tuesday.

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