North Korea says the United States has effectively declared war after US officials placed its leader Kim Jong Un on a list of sanctioned individuals who have committed human rights abuses.
Han Song Ryol, the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s director-general of the US affairs department, added in an interview with the Associated Press that if planned joint US-South Korea war games south of the Demilitarized Zone went ahead next month, it would likely result in a vicious showdown for which the United States would be responsible.
The North is already under heavy sanctions for its nuclear program and usually responds to the military exercises with aggressive rhetoric, but Mr. Han said putting its leader on a sanctions list on July 6 crossed a “red line.”
"The Obama administration went so far to have the impudence to challenge the supreme dignity of the DPRK in order to get rid of its unfavorable position during the political and military showdown with the DPRK," Han said.
"The United States has crossed the red line in our showdown," he said. "We regard this thrice-cursed crime as a declaration of war."
A week after the US placed sanctions on Mr. Kim, North Korea responded by cutting off its last remaining formal line of communication with Washington, called the New York Channel, and said that all interactions between the countries would have to be handled under “war law.”
The US placed Kim and 10 other individuals on the list after the United Nations Human Rights Commission alleged his connection to human rights abuses, including the North’s use of political prisons and intolerance of any kind of political dissent.
While US State Department Officials claim that the sanctions are designed to make North Korean officials reconsider their decisions to commit human rights abuses, Han said the US lacked the moral high ground on both the nuclear and human rights fronts, citing the recent police shootings of blacks and the fact the US was first nation to develop and then use nuclear bombs against humankind.
But Katina Adams, a State Department spokeswoman for East Asia and the Pacific, indicated the new sanctions on Kim were intended to press the North "to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further destabilize the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitments and international obligations."
However, as next month’s war games approach, which last time included exercises the North sees as practice at invading and carrying out “decapitation strikes” (maneuvers that aim at taking out top leaders), Han ramped up the threatening rhetoric further.
"Nobody can predict what kind of influence this kind of vicious confrontation between the DPRK and the United States will have upon the situation on the Korean Peninsula," he said.
"By doing these kinds of vicious and hostile acts toward the DPRK, the U.S. has already declared war against the DPRK. So it is our self-defensive right and justifiable action to respond in a very hard way."
"We are all prepared for war, and we are all prepared for peace," he said. "If the United States forces those kinds of large-scale exercises in August, then the situation caused by that will be the responsibility of the United States."
This report contains material from the Associated Press.