North Korea said on Saturday firing its rockets at the US mainland was inevitable after “Mr. Evil President” Donald Trump called Pyongyang’s leader “rocket man”.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s remarks to the United Nations General Assembly came hours after US bombers and fighter jets flew in international airspace east of North Korea, in a show of force the Pentagon said demonstrated the range of military options available to President Donald Trump.
The flight was the farthest north of the demilitarised zone separating North and South Korea that any US fighter jet or bomber has flown in the 21st century, the Pentagon said.
“This mission is a demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, calling North Korea’s weapons program “a grave threat.”
“We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the U.S. homeland and our allies.”
North Korea has launched dozens of missiles this year, several flying over Japan, as it accelerates its program aimed at enabling it to target the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile.
The Latest: North Korea’s foreign minister says Trump insult ensures attack on the US. https://t.co/uGg6Bxptqw— The Associated Press (@AP) September 23, 2017
The flight follows a week of ratcheting rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang, with Trump and Kim Jong Un trading insults. Trump called the North Korean leader a “madman” on Friday, a day after Kim dubbed him a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”
On Saturday, the mudslinging continued with Ri calling Trump “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania and complacency” who is trying to turn the United Nations into a “gangsters’ nest”.
Ri said Trump himself was on a “suicide mission” after the U.S. president had said Kim was on such a mission.
“‘President Evil’ is holding the seat of the U.S. President,” Ri said, warning that Pyongyang was ready to defend itself if the United States showed any sign of conducting a “decapitating operation on our headquarters or military attack against our country”.
“Now we are finally only a few steps away from the final gate of completion of the state nuclear force,” Ri told the UN General Assembly.
He said sanctions would have no effect on Pyongyang’s resolve to develop its nuclear weapons, with the ultimate goal being “balance of power with the U.S.”
Small earthquake at test site
The US patrols came after officials and experts said a small earthquake near North Korea’s nuclear test site on Saturday was probably not man-made, easing fears Pyongyang had exploded another nuclear bomb just weeks after its last one.
North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho warned on Thursday that North Korea could consider a hydrogen bomb test of an unprecedented scale over the Pacific.
The CTBTO, or Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Organisation, which monitors nuclear tests, and officials of the South Korean meteorological agency also said they believed it was a natural quake.
The U.S. Geological Survey said it could not conclusively confirm whether the quake, which it measured at magnitude 3.5, was man-made or natural.
North Korea detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear weapon earlier this month northeast of Pyongyang, causing a quake with a magnitude of around 6.3.
Trump has warned the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the United States or its allies.
On Thursday, Trump announced new U.S. sanctions that he said allow targeting of companies and institutions that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea.
Earlier on Saturday, China said it will limit exports of refined petroleum products from Oct. 1 and ban exports of condensates and liquefied natural gas immediately to comply with the latest U.N. sanctions. It will also ban imports of textiles from North Korea.
North Korea: If innocent Americans are harmed by suicide attacks, “Trump will be held totally responsible” https://t.co/pUYF5eA4ub— TIME (@TIME) September 23, 2017