Following the startling, impromptu allegation on Monday morning by North Korea's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, who accused Trump of declaring war on North Korea, and warned Pyongyang would shoot down US jets, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday dismissed North Korea’s claims as "absurd."
“We have not declared war on North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd,” Sanders said during today's press briefing.
Sanders: "We have not declared war on North Korea" pic.twitter.com/3Xxnyq80v7— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) September 25, 2017
As a reminder, North Korea’s foreign minister said that Trump’s speech to the United Nations last week and his subsequent tweets were a “declaration of war.” “In light of the declaration of war by Trump, all options will be on the operating table of the Supreme leadership of DPRK,” Ri Yong Ho said. North Korea has also threatened to shoot down U.S. aircraft over international waters.
“It's never appropriate to shoot down another country's aircraft when it's over international waters,” Sanders responded. “Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the peninsula. That's our focus. Doing that through both the most maximum economic and diplomatic pressures as possible at this point.”
On Saturday, Ri delivered a speech at the UN General Assembly in which he stressed that North Korea would inevitably target the US mainland with missiles as Trump called Pyongyang's leader a "rocket man" on a suicide mission.
The threat to shoot down US bombers comes as the Pentagon reported on Saturday that several B-1B bombers flew in the international airspace just off the North Korean eastern coast. Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said the move was made to showcase US military options available to Donald Trump.
Sanders also disputed reports that Trump’s top aides warned him against using such heated rhetoric over concerns it would provoke Kim.
Separately, Sanders also defended President Trump's escalating war of words with the NFL: “This isn’t about the president being against anyone," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at her daily briefing. "This is about the president and millions of Americans being for something.”
Using the parlance of our times, Sanders was bombarded with questions about Trump's description of players who kneel during the anthem as "sons of bitches" who should be fired. She declined to defend his specific language, but said Trump was trying to rally the country around unifying themes like patriotism and respect for the military.
“I think that it’s always appropriate for the president of the United States to defend our flag, to defend our national anthem," she said.
As The Hill reported, the White House was challenged over Trump’s claim that his remarks had nothing to do with race. Reporters noted that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the first NFL player to kneel during the national anthem, was protesting police brutality and racial inequality.
Sanders responded that the “focus” of the protests “has long since changed” and added that “if the debate is really for them about police brutality they should probably protest the officers on the field that are protecting them instead of the American flag."