"We have not declared war on North Korea," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
Early Monday, North Korea’s foreign minister said that Donald Trump had declared war on the Asian country. Later, when asked if the White house viewed President Trump’s words as a declaration of war, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders replied, “Not at all. We have not declared war on North Korea, and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd.”
As a part of North Korea’s assertion that the U.S. had ratcheted up tensions to a militaristic level, foreign minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters outside the United Nations in New York on Monday morning, “The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” according to reporting by multiple news outlets.
The North Korean official also said that the country now has the right to shoot down American military aircraft in its defense—even if they are outside the country’s air space.
“It’s never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country’s aircraft when it’s over international waters,” Sanders told reporters at Monday’s White House press briefing in response. “Our goal remains the same—we continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
Monday’s tension comes after after President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea in a U.N. General Assembly speech on Sept. 19. He insulted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the prepared remarks, calling him “rocket man.”
Kim responded by insulting the U.S. president in a televised address, saying he would “surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.” North Korea’s foreign minister followed up over the weekend with even more strong words, telling General Assembly that targeting the U.S. mainland with rockets was “inevitable.”
In response, Trump took to Twitter on Saturday, tweeting “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!” Today’s remarks by North Korea were largely in reaction to that tweet.