North Korea official to UN: Trump on a suicide mission
- Trump is “mentally deranged,” North Korean official tells UN
- US flies warplanes in international airspace near North Korea
The heated remarks also came on a day in which mysterious seismic activity in North Korea refueled concerns over the rogue nation’s nuclear ambitions.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, speaking before the United Nations, angrily responded to US President Donald Trump’s UN remarks in which he referred to Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man.”
North Korea addresses UN, Trump tweets response
“None other than Trump himself is on a suicide mission,” Ri said in a speech at the UN General Assembly. “In case innocent lives of the US are harmed because of this suicide attack, Trump will be held totally responsible.”
Trump took on Twitter Saturday night to respond to Ri’s remarks.
“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 wrote.
The foreign minister also said the “dangerous reality (is) that the gambler who grew old using threats, frauds and all other schemes to acquire a patch of land holds the nuclear button. These are what constitute the gravest threat to the international peace and security today.”
There was no other immediate response from the White House to Ri’s remarks, but there were military manuevers.
The Pentagon said Saturday that B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam and F-15C Eagle fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan, flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea.
It’s the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that US fighters or bomber aircraft have ever flown this century, the Pentagon said.
The flight underscored “the seriousness with which we take DPRK’s reckless behavior,” the Pentagon said, using an acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.
“North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”
War of words
There has been name-calling and heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang this week as the UN met in New York.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres met with Ri on Saturday.
“The Secretary-General expressed concern over the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and appealed for de-escalation and full implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions,” a statement from a UN spokesperson said. “The Secretary-General emphasized the need for a political solution.”
Throughout the week Washington and Pyongyang have had strong words for each other.
Those remarks came shortly after Kim Jong Un made an unprecedented televised statement, accusing Trump of being “mentally deranged.”
In a rare direct statement, Kim said that Trump would “pay dearly” for the threats, and that North Korea “will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”
Concerns over nuclear program
North Korea has been working on developing missiles that can reach the United States and its allies and pair them with a miniaturized nuclear warheads.
To comply with a UN Security Council resolution calling for sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear activity, China said Friday that it will limit its exports of refined petroleum products to Pyongyang as well as ban imports of the North’s textiles.
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a written statement that it will restrict exports of refined petroleum products from October 1, and ban the export of condensate oil and liquefied natural gas immediately.
A ban on textile imports from the North will go into effect immediately, the statement said.
Quakes near North Korean nuclear site
Scientists said they believe the seismic activity Saturday could have been caused by North Korea’s sixth test of a nuclear weapon on September 3.
Analysts were working to determine whether the tremors detected near the Punggye-ri nuclear site were natural or man-made.
The larger one had a 3.4 magnitude, the group’s initial assessment found.
“This geographical location is a non-seismically active zone. The September 3 event would’ve weakened the zone, which could still have further repercussions, such as radioisotopes coming through possible subsequent cracks which would allow scientists to assess what type of materials were used,” said Lassina Zerbo, the group’s executive secretary.
The Korea Meteorological Administration also cited the possibility that the seismic activity Saturday occurred because of the geological stress from the nuclear test.
The South Korean agency confirmed there were two earthquakes Saturday.
According to its website, the first quake — with a 2.6 magnitude occurred at 12:43 a.m. ET. A second one took place at 4:29 a.m. ET around the same area.
Park Jong-shin, an analyst for the agency, agreed the latest earthquakes might be aftershocks.
“It is assumed that the earthquakes occurred because of North Korea’s latest nuclear test,” Park said.
The US Geological Survey measured a magnitude 3.5 earthquake 22 kilometers (more than 13 miles) east-northeast of Sungjibaegam, North Korea. The depth at the epicenter was 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).
“We cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event,” the USGS said.
CNN’s Richard Roth, Chris Boyette, Joe Sutton, Zahra Ullah, Sheena Jones, Andreena Narayan, Junko Ogura and Milena Veselinovic contributed to this report.