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North Korea’s Foreign Minister has accused the United States of declaring war, according to BBC News. While in New York for the United Nations summit, Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho announced that North Korea “reserved the right” to shoot down United States bombers, whether or not they are even in the North Korean airspace. This was because he stated, the world “should clearly remember” that the United States had declared war on North Korea first.
After Mr. Ri addressed the United Nations on Saturday, U.S President Donald Trump tweeted, “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!” President Trump had already previously referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “rocket man.” In response to the first instance during President Trump’s United Nations speech, both North Korea’s leader and Foreign Minister likened Trump to a “dog barking,” and Kim Jong-Un further called Trump “a mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” In response to Trump’s latest threat, Mr. Ri responded that “the question of who would ‘be around much longer’ would be answered by North Korea.”
But how seriously are North Korea taking the United States President’s threats? The United States has not officially declared war on North Korea, which can only be done through an executive order in an emergency situation or through an act of Congress. But North Korea’s Foreign Minister seems convinced that President Trump’s comments act as a declaration of war all the same. Mr. Ri, leaving the General Assembly, stated that “in light of the declaration of war by Trump, all options will be on the operations table of the supreme leadership of the DPRK [North Korea].” This statement echoes a comment made by Trump earlier in August when he claimed: “all options are on the table” in dealing with the North Korean threat.
Tensions between North Korea and the United States and its allies have risen in recent months as North Korea carried out ballistics tests on nuclear weapons. Recently, the United Nations imposed increased sanctions on North Korea in an effort to coerce the nation into stopping its nuclear program. It has continued in spite of increased economic sanctions; North Korea has stated that it must maintain its nuclear program as a deterrent against other nations that are seeking to destroy it.
According to The New York Times, on September 23rd, the Pentagon announced that the United States Air Force had “sent B-1B bombers and F-15C fighters over waters north of the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, in response to what it called the North Korean government’s ‘reckless behavior.'” The recent threat to shoot down United States bombers, even when they are not in the North Korean airspace, no doubt refers to this particular exercise by the United States Air Force. North Korea seeks to deter further threatening exercises from occurring.
Despite rising tensions, the BBC notes that experts have continued to suggest that a direct confrontation between the United States and North Korea is unlikely. Such a confrontation would be unspeakably bad for both countries and result in collateral damage that would impact at the very least South Korea as well.