Amid a war of words between Washington and Pyongyang, the North Koran foreign minister says his country reserves the right to take countermeasures against threats by the United States, including shooting down US strategic bombers.
Ri Yong-ho told reporters in New York on Monday that recent remarks by US President Donald Trump at the United Nations General Assembly constituted a declaration of war against Pyongyang.
"The whole world should clearly remember it was the US who first declared war on our country," Ri said, adding "Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country."
"In light of the declaration of war by Trump, all options will be on the operations table of the supreme leadership of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)," the minister said, stressing, "The question of who will be around much longer will be answered then."
The remarks come after in his first speech at the UN General Assembly, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary.
Trump, who had formerly threatened Pyongyang with “fire and the fury like the world has never seen,” renewed the threat at the UN, saying, “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
He called North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, a “rocket man” who is “on a suicide mission.”
Kim responded to Trump’s UN remarks by saying that he “will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”
Speaking before the United Nations, Ri also said Pyongyang was ready for a preemptive nuclear attack against the US if needed.
"Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN," Trump tweeted in response, adding, "If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!"
The renewed tensions come as there were military maneuvers held by US bombers over waters east of North Korea. The Pentagon said Saturday that its bombers from Guam and Okinawa, in Japan, had flown in international airspace over the waters in “a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat.”
North Korea is under mounting international pressure over its missile and military nuclear programs and has been subjected to an array of sanctions by the United Nations. However, Pyongyang says it needs to continue and develop the programs as a deterrent against hostility by the US and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan.
Russia and China have already warned that no military solution is available to the escalating crisis on the Korean Peninsula, saying the current standoff will only be resolved through dialogue.