US: no ‘declaration of war’ – Boston Herald

North Korea said a tweet by President Trump amounts to a “declaration of war” and reserved the right to shoot down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace — claims that the White House dismissed as “absurd.”

The latest development in the ever-intensifying war of words began Saturday via the president’s Twitter account.

“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!” Trump tweeted, invoking his new nickname for North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, told reporters at the United Nations yesterday that by issuing the tweet, Trump had “declared the war on our country.” He also claimed North Korea now holds “the right to shoot down the United States strategic bombers even when they’re not yet inside the airspace border of our country.”

“This is the first time I’ve seen the North Koreans respond openly to a tweet,” said Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

“Trump is almost treating this like a celebrity beef, as if he’s arguing with Roseanne Barr, and I think it’s a little out of place, honestly,” said Pollack.

The White House found itself in the strange position of denying it was waging war.

“We’ve not declared war on North Korea, and frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “It’s never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country’s aircraft when it’s over international waters.”

She added that the United States’ goal is still “peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

North Korea has used the line of rhetoric previously, including in July 2016 when it said U.S.-imposed sanctions were “a declaration of war.” It did so again in December.

Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korea expert at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, called North Korea’s latest threat to shoot down American bombers a “fake illusory bait and switch.”

“North Korea set the stage for the next big provocation, which will not be shooting down a U.S. spy plane or war plane, but rather another serious missile test or a nuclear test,” said Lee, noting North Korea’s foreign minister spoke in a measured tone and his assistant was precise in his translation.

Such a test could come around Oct. 10, a major holiday commemorating the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party in North Korea, said Lee. The country conducted its first-ever nuclear test on the eve of the holiday in 2006.

Lee said North Korea may simply be bracing the world community for its next test by raising expectations it will conduct a much worse shoot-down of an American war plane.

“The world will let out a sigh of relief and say, ‘Oh, at least it’s not as serious as … killing U.S. servicemen, which would trigger a response by President Trump,” said Lee. “The condemnation that rightfully would be leveled on North Korea would be far less in degree.”

But Pollack noted North Korea has targeted U.S. planes before, including shooting down a reconnaissance aircraft in 1969, killing 31 American servicemen.

“They have a track record, and I wouldn’t put it past them,” said Pollack. “They also have better technology now.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Policy magazine reported yesterday that the Joint Regional Intelligence Center issued a bulletin in August warning a nuclear attack on Southern California would be “catastrophic” and advising not to expect federal assistance for up to three days.

The 16-page bulletin came in response to a North Korean test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the West Coast and a propaganda video showing the destruction of San Francisco and Washington.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.


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