North Korea appears to be following through with its threat to shoot down US fighter jets and bombers that travel near its airspace, as US jets and bombers did on Saturday, according to a Yonhap report - the latest sign that North Korea intends to follow through with threats made by Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho during a speech outside the UN on Monday.
During the speech, Ri claimed that Trump’s recent tweet that DPRK's leadership would “not be around much longer” amounted to "a declaration of war" and added that North Korea has "every right to take countermeasures against the US, including to shoot down American jets outside the DPRK's airspace" as part of its right to self-defense under the United Nations charter.
“The UN Charter acknowledges member states’ right of self-defense,” Ri said outside a hotel near the UN headquarters on Monday. “As the United States has declared a war, even though its strategic bombers don’t cross our border, we will come to own all rights to respond for self-defense including shooting down its planes at any time."
Less than a day later, North Korea has reportedly boosted its east coast defenses, moving aircraft and fortifying their positions, according to Lee Cheol-woo, the chief of the South Korea National Assembly's intelligence committee.
As a reminder, on Monday Ri said that the North’s right to countermeasures included shooting down U.S. bombers “even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country”.
“The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” he told reporters in New York on Monday, where he had been attending the annual United Nations General Assembly. “The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then,” he said.
The buildup is also a reaction to an unprecedented “show of force” this weekend when Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighter jets flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea on Saturday, even crossing the de-facto sea border between the two countries. The flight was the farthest north of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea that any US fighter jet or bomber has flown in the 21st century. According to Reuters, the B-1B Lancer bombers came from Guam and the U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter escorts came from Okinawa, Japan. The Pentagon said the operation showed the seriousness with which it took North Korea’s “reckless behavior.”
Lee added that, contrary to the impression gleaned from the fiery speech, the North was being cautious not to cause any accidental military clash along the tense land border, and that it has directed its armed forces to "report first before taking any military measures."
Separately, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders denied on Monday that the United States had declared war, calling the suggestion “absurd”, while China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said war on the Korean peninsula would have no winner.