The United States has not declared war on North Korea, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday.
Sanders rejected North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s assertion that President Donald Trump had essentially declared war through his forceful rhetoric against Pyongyang last week.
Trump’s pledge to “totally destroy North Korea,” if necessary, and his tweet over the weekend warning Ri that if “he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” are “not at all” a war declaration, Sanders said.
“We have not declared war on North Korea and, frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd,” she added.
Speaking in New York earlier Monday, Ri charged that Trump’s tweet “declared war on our country.”
“Given the fact that this comes from someone that is currently holding the seat of the United States presidency,” he continued, “this is clearly a declaration of war.”
As a result, Ri said, North Korea has “every right to take counter measures, including the right to shoot down United States’ strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country.”
“The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then,” he warned.
Sanders said it’s “never appropriate” for a country to shoot down another nation’s aircraft over international waters. “Our goal is still the same,” she said. “We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. That’s our focus, doing that through both the most maximum economic and diplomatic pressures as possible at this point.”