The White House has rejected claims that the United States has declared war on North Korea, asserting that any suggestion in this regard is 'absurd', even as the two nuclear powers engaged in a war of words again.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was responding to questions in this regard at her daily press conference.
"Not at all. We've not declared war on North Korea. And frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd," she said.
North Korea's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, who was in New York on Monday, accused US President Donald Trump of declaring war against his country. He also said that Pyongyang was ready to defend itself by shooting down US bombers.
"The whole world should clearly remember it was the US who first declared war on our country," Ho told reporters in New York.
The top North Korean diplomat is in New York to attend the annual General Assembly Session of the United Nations.
North Korea does not have a diplomatic relationship with the United States.
"Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country," Ho said.
Sanders said it is never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country's aircraft when it's over international waters.
"Our goal is still the same: We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearising of the Korean Peninsula -- that's our focus -- doing that through both the maximum economic and diplomatic pressures as possible at this point," the White House Press Secretary said in response to a question.
Later in the day, the US House of Representative passed the North Korea Human Rights Reauthorisation Act by 415-0 votes, reflecting the overwhelming bipartisan support to it.
The bill reauthorises US programs that promote human rights, democracy, and freedom of information in North Korea.
Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said the bill enacts important updates to freedom-of-information authorities, to reflect technological advances beyond radio broadcasting, including USB drives, mobile devices, and other promising tools.
"It also renews the obligations of the Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights. Finally, the bill enhances congressional oversight tools, to help ensure that our investments stand the best chance of paying dividends in freedom for North Korea, and greater security for the rest of the world," he said on the floor of the House.
"The world is rightly focused on the threat that North Korea poses to global security. Their nuclear detonations, missile launches, forward-deployed artillery, and a history of deadly provocations all underscore a simple, jarring fact: The Kim regime wants to pose a mortal threat to the United States, and to our democratic, treaty allies: South Korea and Japan," he said.
"But in facing this reality, we cannot afford to forget the regime's greatest victim and longest-held hostage: The North Korean people themselves. Remembering this is not just a moral imperative, but it's a strategic one, too. If Kim had to answer to the North Korean people, he would pose far less danger to us," Royce said.
Appearing on MSNBC, Democratic Leader Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, alleged that the US President Donald Trump is giving a platform to Kim Jong-un.
"It's really -- [Kim Jong-un] is so beneath the dignity of this discussion, about the safety of the world," she said.
"I'm one of the few people in Congress who has been to Pyongyang. What I'm concerned about is the following. I think Kim Jong-un is a bully. I don't think he's going to ever do any of these things. Anything he does has a return address. He must know that it's bad news for his people -- should he do anything," Pelosi said.
IMAGE: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a daily briefing. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters