Rhetoric between N Korea and US grows more fiery
US President Donald Trump dialled up the rhetoric against North Korea again at the weekend, warning the country’s foreign minister that he and leader Kim Jong-un “won’t be around much longer”, as Pyongyang staged a major anti-US rally.
North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday that targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after “Mr Evil President” Trump called Pyongyang’s leader a “rocket man” on a suicide mission.
“Just heard foreign minister of North Korea speak at UN. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” Mr Trump said on Twitter late on Saturday.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim have traded increasingly threatening and personal insults as Pyongyang races towards its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US – something Mr Trump has vowed to prevent.
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin yesterday tried to dial back Mr Trump’s comments. “The president doesn’t want to be in a nuclear war and we will do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t occur,” he said on ABC News. “On the other hand, the president will protect the American people and our allies.”
At the UN on Saturday, Mr Ri told delegates: “Due to his lacking of basic common knowledge and proper sentiment, he tried to insult the supreme dignity of my country by referring it to a rocket. By doing so, however, he committed an irreversible mistake of making our rockets’ visit to the entire US mainland inevitable all the more.”
The minister also called Mr Trump a “gambler who grew old using threats, frauds and all other schemes to acquire a patch of land”.
And he accused the president of turning the White House “into a noisy marketing place,” and the UN “into a gangsters’ nest where money is respected and bloodshed is the order of the day”.
Analysts say the heated rhetoric is increasing the risk of a miscalculation by one side or the other that could have massive repercussions.
North Korea’s state-run television KRT aired a video yesterday showing tens of thousands of people attending an anti-US rally at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang.
The North’s official KCNA news agency said more than 100,000 people gathered for the rally on Saturday and delivered speeches supporting comments made by Mr Kim earlier in the week.
“We are waiting for the right time to have a final battle with the US, the evil empire, and to remove the US from the world,” KCNA quoted Ri Il-bae, a commanding officer of the Red Guards, as saying. “Once respected Supreme commander Kim Jong-un gives an order, we will annihilate the group of aggressors.”
In an unprecedented direct statement on Friday, Mr Kim described Mr Trump as a “mentally deranged US dotard” whom he would tame with fire.
Mr Kim said the North would consider the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the US and that Mr Trump’s comments had confirmed his nuclear programme was “the correct path”.
Mr Trump threatened in his maiden UN address on Tuesday to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people if North Korea threatened the United States or its allies. It was not clear from Mr Trump’s latest tweet if he was referring to Mr Ri and Mr Kim, or North Korea more broadly.
North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb test on September 3, prompting another round of UN sanctions. Pyongyang said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.
US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighters flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea on Saturday in a show of force the Pentagon said indicated the range of military options available to Mr Trump.