Trump tweeted on Saturday that “they won’t be around much longer” if the North Korean leadership continues to make threats.
The North Korean foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, said in a statement to press in New York Monday morning that these words amounted to declaring war.
“Last weekend Trump claimed that our leadership wouldn’t be around much longer. He declared a war on our country,” he said.
Given the fact that these words come from the head of state, he said, they are “clearly a declaration of war.”
The White House disagrees. “We have not declared war on North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a briefing Monday afternoon. “Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
North Korea has remained technically at war with the United States for decades, since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce not a peace treaty.
Ri said he hoped that the international community would remember that “It was the U.S. who first declared war on our country” and as such, North Korea should defend itself.
“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.”
WATCH: U.S. President Donald Trump says North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer”
Ri made the statement then returned from his car to the press microphones to add: “In light of the declaration of war by Trump, all options will be on the operations table of the supreme leadership of the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea).”
This is not the first time North Korea has said that the U.S. has declared war on them. In 2016, they claimed that U.S. sanctions amounted to war.
The increasingly heated rhetoric between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is raising fears of a risk of a miscalculation by one side or the other that could have massive repercussions.
China called on Monday for all sides in the North Korea missile crisis to show restraint and not “add oil to the flames.” China is North Korea’s major trading partner.
Asked how concerned China was the war of words between Trump and North Korea could get out of control, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang described the situation as highly complex and sensitive.
It was vitally important everyone strictly, fully and correctly implemented all North Korea related U.N. resolutions, Lu said, resolutions which call for both tighter sanctions and efforts to resume dialogue.
WATCH: South Korean foreign minister says North Korea ‘likely’ to conduct further provocations
All sides should “not further irritate each other and add oil to the flames of the tense situation on the peninsula at present”, Lu told a daily news briefing.
“We hope all sides do not continue doing things to irritate each other and should instead exercise restraint.”
-With files from Reuters