SEOUL/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – 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 UN 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 U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” Mr Trump said on Twitter.
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.
Analysts say the escalation in rhetoric is increasing the risk of a miscalculation by either side 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 Red Guards commanding officer, 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 Kim’s comments came after Mr Trump threatened in his maiden UN address on Thursday to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people.
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.
The US bombers’ flight was the farthest north of the demilitarised zone separating North and South
Korea that any US fighter jet or bomber had flown in the 21st century, the Pentagon said.