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U.S.-North Korea Discord Goes Beyond Discourse To A Show Of Military Force

North Korea Minister for Foreign Affairs Ri Yong Ho speaks during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday.

The weekend saw an escalation in the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang, complete with a U.S. show of military might over the waters near North Korea and jitters over what seismologists say was an earthquake near a North Korean nuclear test site.

On Saturday, North Korea issued fiery rhetoric from the podium at the United Nations General Assembly. Offset by the backdrop of green marble, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho condemned Trump's "reckless and violent words," delivered from the same podium days earlier. Ri said Trump will "pay dearly" for his speech Tuesday.

In his debut address to the General Assembly, President Trump pledged to "totally destroy" North Korea if the United States is forced to protect itself or its allies. He used his oft-repeated moniker for Kim Jong Un, saying "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime."

Ri echoed Trump's words Saturday, saying it is the U.S. president who "is on a suicide mission." Ri said the United States has forced North Korea to possess nuclear weapons and that with Trump's speech "our rockets' visit to the entire U.S. mainland" are all the more "inevitable." Ri then referred to the North using a "nuclear hammer of justice."

Sunday, Trump responded to Ri's U.N. speech with another threat, tweeting that if Ri "echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!"

Earlier Saturday, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and F-15C Eagle fighter escorts flew in international airspace over the waters east of North Korea in response to Pyongyang's "reckless behavior," Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement.

"This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea's coast in the 21st century," White said. "This mission is a demonstration of U.S. resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat."

White went on to say that the U.S. is ready "to use the full range of military capabilities" to defend the homeland and allies.

Also Saturday, marchers in Pyonyang carried signs calling for "death to the American imperialists" accompanied by shouts for "total destruction," reports The Associated Press citing the state news agency. It was part of a major anti-U.S. rally that brought together officials, students and workers.

The demonstration came a day after Kim issued a rare direct statement to Trump's U.N. speech, saying, "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire."

In another dizzying development Saturday, what seismologists say was a minor earthquake prompted speculation that Pyongyang could be conducting yet another weapons test. As The Two-Way reported, the tremor occurred near the site where North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test earlier this month.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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