North Korean diplo­mat says tweet by Trump ‘de­clared war’

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - World -

strate­gic bombers even when they're not yet in­side the airspace bor­der of our coun­try.”

Hours later, the White House pushed back on Ri's claim, say­ing: “We have not de­clared war on North Korea.” The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, re­fer­ring to the tweet, stressed that the US is not seek­ing to over­throw North Korea's gov­ern­ment.

US Cab­i­net of­fi­cials, par­tic­u­larly Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, have in­sisted that the US-led cam­paign of diplo­matic and eco­nomic pres­sure on North Korea is fo­cused on elim­i­nat­ing the pariah state's nu­clear weapons pro­gram, not its to­tal­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ment.

But the more Trump mud­dies the pic­ture, the tougher it may be­come to main­tain co­op­er­a­tion with China and Rus­sia, which seek a diplo­matic solution to the nu­clear cri­sis and not a new US ally sud­denly pop­ping up on their bor­ders. It also risks snuff­ing out hopes of per­suad­ing Kim's gov­ern­ment to en­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions when its sur­vival isn't as­sured.

Trump tweeted Satur­day: “Just heard For­eign Min­is­ter of North Korea speak at UN. If he echoes thoughts of Lit­tle Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!” Trump also used the de­ri­sive “Rocket Man” ref­er­ence to Kim in his speech to the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly on Sept. 19, but this time he added the word “lit­tle.”

This was not the first time North Korea has spo­ken about a dec­la­ra­tion of war be­tween the two coun­tries. In July 2016, Pyongyang said US sanc­tions im­posed on Kim were “a dec­la­ra­tion of war” against the Demo­cratic Peo­ple's Repub­lic of Korea — the coun­try's of­fi­cial name — and it made a sim­i­lar state­ment af­ter a new round of UN sanc­tions in De­cem­ber. The North Korean leader used the words again Fri­day.

The for­eign min­is­ter's brief state­ment to a throng of re­porters out­side his hotel be­fore head­ing off in a mo­tor­cade, re­port­edly to re­turn home, built on the es­ca­lat­ing rhetoric be­tween Kim and Trump.

“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,” Trump told world lead­ers Sept. 19. “Rocket Man is on a sui­cide mis­sion for him­self and for his regime.”

Kim re­sponded with the first-ever di­rect state­ment from a North Korean leader against a US pres­i­dent, lob­bing a string of in­sults at Trump.

“I will surely and def­i­nitely tame the men­tally de­ranged US dotard with fire,” he said, choos­ing the rarely used word “dotard,” which means an old per­son who is weak-minded.

“Now that Trump has de­nied the ex­is­tence of and in­sulted me and my coun­try in front of the eyes of the world and made the most fe­ro­cious dec­la­ra­tion of a war in history that he would de­stroy the DPRK, we will con­sider with se­ri­ous­ness ex­er­cis­ing of a cor­re­spond­ing, high­est level of hard­line coun­ter­mea­sure in history,” Kim said.

On Mon­day, Ri es­ca­lated the threat by say­ing Trump's week­end claim that North Korea's lead­ers would soon be gone “is clearly a dec­la­ra­tion of war.”

All UN mem­bers and the world “should clearly re­mem­ber that it was the US who first de­clared war on our coun­try,” the for­eign min­is­ter said, adding that North Korea now has the right to take counter-mea­sures and re­tal­i­ate against US bombers.

Ri ended his brief re­marks by say­ing: “The ques­tion of who won't be around much longer will be an­swered then.”

Mil­i­tary ma­neu­vers by the US and its al­lies are adding to ten­sions along the two Koreas' heav­ily mil­i­ta­rized bor­der. In a show of might, US bombers and fighter es­corts flew Satur­day to the far­thest point north of the bor­der be­tween North and South Korea by any such Amer­i­can air­craft this cen­tury.

A Pen­tagon spokesman, Army Col. Rob Man­ning, said Mon­day that the op­er­a­tion was con­ducted in in­ter­na­tional airspace and legally per­mis­si­ble.

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