UNITED NATIONS — North Korea‘s top diplomat said Monday that President Trump’s tweet that leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer” was “a declaration of war” against his country by the United States.
“This is clearly a declaration of war,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters through a translator in New York. “… The U.N. Charter stipulates individual member states’ rights to self-defense. Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down the United States’ strategic bombers even when they’re not yet inside the airspace border of our country.”
Later, at the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Mr. Trump’s remarks should not be viewed as a declaration of war.
“We’ve not declared war on North Korea, and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd,” Sanders said.
Sanders also responded to Ri’s threat to shoot down American bombers.
“It’s never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country’s aircraft when it’s over international waters,” Sanders said. “Our goal is still the same: We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That’s our focus, doing that through both the most maximum economic and diplomatic pressures as possible at this point.”
Mr. Trump didn’t respond to questions from reporters about Ri’s comments following an Oval Office ceremony where the president signed a presidential memorandum on funding for science, technology, engineering and math education.
CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk reports the North Korean issue was the subject of several talks at the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York, which concluded Monday. Mr. Trump met with the president of South Korea and the prime minister of Japan about North Korea last week.
“The real question is Russia and China,” Falk said on CBSN. “Their foreign ministers at this U.N. General Assembly made clear what they want is more diplomatic effort.”
Monday was not the first time North Korea has spoken about a declaration of war between the two countries. In July 2016, Pyongyang said U.S. sanctions imposed on Kim were “a declaration of war.”
Ri referred Monday to Mr. Trump’s tweet Saturday that said: “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!”