North Korea has shot down American military aircraft before, and that was before it was a nuclear power.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Monday that the U.S. declared war on the rogue regime when President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. The North Korean diplomat asserted that his country has the right to take defensive countermeasures, including shooting down American strategic military aircraft.
The U.S. regularly sends B-1B Lancers, powerful conventional bombers, to the Korean Peninsula in a show of force. While the U.S. military typically conducts simple overflights, the bombers have also participated in live-fire training exercises near the tense demilitarized zone.
The North Korean military shot down an American EC-121 reconnaissance plane on April 15, 1969. The plane, which was carrying a full crew, was flying over international waters and collecting intelligence.
In this incident, North Korea killed all 31 American servicemen on board the aircraft.
Former President Richard Nixon considered a nuclear strike but later decided to bomb the airbase. Ultimately, though, he opted against military action.
The North shot a missile at a SR-71 Blackbird in August 1981.
North Korea gunned down a U.S. Army helicopter that mistakenly wandered over the DMZ during a training exercise in December 1994, killing an American pilot.
Four North Korean fighter jets intercepted an unarmed U.S. Air Force RC-135S Cobra Ball plane on a surveillance mission over the East Sea/Sea of Japan in March 2003.
Not only does North Korea have its own strategic air assets, it also has an improved surface-to-air missile system — the KN-06 –which the country tested successfully in May. North Korea’s conventional military forces are, however, vastly outmatched by those of the U.S. and its allies.
That overwhelming force did not deter past acts of aggression, from the shelling of a South Korean island to the sinking of a South Korean warship.
It is unclear whether North Korea will actually take shots at American military aircraft in the current climate, but there is a strong possibility that Kim Jong Un will pursue more provocations as he feels empowered by its long-range missiles able to reach the continental U.S. and thermonuclear weaponry.
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