North Korea’s foreign minister warned Monday that Pyongyang had every right to shoot down U.S. bombers even if they don’t infringe North Korean airspace. The statement came just two days after the Pentagon said it had flown B-1B Lancer bombers into international airspace over waters east of North Korea.
Addressing the media outside his hotel in New York, Ri Yong Ho said that President Donald Trump “declared war on our country” over the weekend when he warned that the North Korean leadership “won’t be around much longer.”
In recent years, U.S. presidents have avoided formally declaring war on countries they seek to invade. But North Korea’s foreign minister seems to believe that’s what Trump did through a late-night Saturday tweet, saying in response that as a member of the U.N. Pyongyang has every right to protect itself.
“The fact that this comes from someone who currently holds the seat of the U.S. president, this is clearly a declaration of war,” Ri said, speaking through a translator.
The foreign minister, who called Trump “mentally deranged” during a speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday, then laid out his country’s position for taking defensive action against perceived threats from the U.S.
“The U.N. charter stipulates individual member-states’ rights to self-defense. Since the U.S. declared war on our country, we have every right to take countermeasures, including the right to shoot down the U.S. strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country,” Ri said.
On Saturday, the Pentagon sent bombers from Guam toward North Korean airspace, the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone that U.S. military aircraft have flown this century. The show of military force was seemingly a response to Ri’s earlier comments before the U.N., when he claimed Trump was “on a suicide mission.”
Ri concluded his comments Monday by saying: “The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then.”