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North Korea Says It Has the Right to Shoot Down U.S. Warplanes

The foreign minister’s comments, made outside his hotel near the United Nations, added to the invective-laced tensions that have been building with the Trump administration over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

While North Korea has reserved the right to take pre-emptive action against the United States and South Korea, Mr. Ri’s threat to shoot down American planes in international airspace was a new element in the standoff.

Political analysts said Trump administration officials should take Mr. Ri’s threats seriously.

“I think they’re dangerously close to some kind of a conflict with North Korea,” said Jae H. Ku, the director of the U.S. Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

“This is something I feared,” he said. “When we go down this road, our escalation could lead to accidental shootouts, and it may not be so accidental.”

North Korea had already deemed Mr. Trump’s threat at the United Nations — to “totally destroy” North Korea if the United States were forced to defend itself or its allies — a declaration of war.

The North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said last week: “Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy the D.P.R.K. [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

The Pentagon said on Saturday that the Air Force had sent B-1B bombers and F-15C fighters over waters north of the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, in response to what it called the North Korean government’s “reckless behavior.”

It was the farthest north “any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century,” Dana W. White, the Defense Department’s chief spokeswoman, said in a statement.

If North Korea were to shoot down a United States military aircraft, it would not be the first time that had happened since the 1950-53 Korean War.

In April 1969, North Korean fighter jets shot down an unarmed United States Lockheed EC-121 spy plane on a North Korean intelligence-gathering mission over the Sea of Japan, with a loss of 31 American lives.

North Korean state radio said at the time that the aircraft had penetrated “deep into the airspace” of the country. The Defense Department said the plane was 50 nautical miles off the North Korean coast.

The North’s assertions that the United States has declared war on the isolated country of 25 million people echo threats periodically made by North Korea state propaganda.

In August, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling party, warned that American sanctions against Pyongyang would result in the United States’ being “catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire.”

In March, North Korea released a propaganda video depicting a nuclear strike on Washington. As an animated mushroom cloud rises over the city, the English subtitle says, “If the American imperialists provoke us a bit, we will not hesitate to slap them with a pre-emptive nuclear strike.”

“The United States must choose!” the video continues. “It’s up to you whether the nation called the United States exists on this planet or not.”

North Korea frequently threatens to turn Seoul, the South Korean capital, into a “sea of fire.”

Mr. Trump’s comment in August that any threats by North Korea would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” echoed that imagery.

Source: NYT > World

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