Earlier this month, the Obama Administration implemented new sanctions against more than a dozen North Korean individuals and entities. Among those sanctioned individuals was the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
On Thursday, Han Song Ryol, director-general of the US affairs department at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, warned that Washington’s actions could have grave consequences.
"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. We regard this thrice-cursed crime as a declaration of war."
Sanctions on individuals were implemented in addition to penalties placed on the North by the UN Security Council in the wake of Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
Han also warned the US and South Korea not to follow through with its upcoming annual military exercises, calling the drills an escalation, after US ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert’s recent flight aboard a US F-16 in the region.
"We regard that as the act of a villain, who is a crazy person. All these facts show that the United States is intentionally aggravating the tensions in the Korean Peninsula," Han said.
"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. By doing these kinds of vicious and hostile acts toward the DPRK, the US has already declared war against the DPRK.
"So it is our self-defensive right and justifiable action to respond in a very hard way."
In response, Katina Adams, a US State Department spokeswoman for East Asia and the Pacific, stressed that Washington continues to call on Pyongyang, "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."
She also defended the war games taking place next month, maintaining that they are meant as a show of solidarity.
"These exercises are a clear demonstration of the US commitment to the alliance," Adams said.
The US also plans to install a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system on the peninsula by the end of 2017. This has led to outrage from not only the North, but also China and Russia, who view the battery as a threat to national security.
While the US maintains the missile system is necessary to defend Seoul against hypothetical attacks from the North, Han argued that recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests are only necessary in light of US aggression.
"In the view of cause and effect, it is the US that provided the cause of our possession of nuclear forces," he said.
"We never hide the fact, and we are very proud of the fact, that we have very strong nuclear deterrent forces not only to cope with the United States’ nuclear blackmail but also to neutralize the nuclear blackmail of the United States."