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[SEOUL]US President Donald Trump dialled up the rhetoric against North Korea again at the weekend, warning the country's foreign minister that he and leader Kim Jong Un "won't be around much longer", as Pyongyang staged a major anti-US rally.
North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday that targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after "Mr Evil President" Trump called Pyongyang's leader a "rocket man" on a suicide mission.
"Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!" Mr Trump said on Twitter late on Saturday.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim have traded increasingly threatening and personal insults as Pyongyang races towards its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States - something Mr Trump has vowed to prevent.
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Sunday tried to dial back Mr Trump's comments.
"The president doesn't want to be in a nuclear war and we will do everything we can to make sure that doesn't occur," he said on ABC News. "On the other hand, the president will protect the American people and our allies." Analysts say the heated rhetoric is increasing the risk of a miscalculation by one side or the other that could have massive repercussions.
North Korea's state-run television KRT aired a video on Sunday showing tens of thousands of people attending an anti-US rally at Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang.
The North's official KCNA news agency said more than 100,000 people gathered for the rally on Saturday and delivered speeches supporting comments made by Mr Kim earlier in the week.
"We are waiting for the right time to have a final battle with the US, the evil empire, and to remove the US from the world," KCNA quoted Ri Il-bae, a commanding officer of the Red Guards, as saying. "Once respected Supreme commander Kim Jong Un gives an order, we will annihilate the group of aggressors." In an unprecedented direct statement on Friday, Mr Kim described Trump as a "mentally deranged US dotard" whom he would tame with fire.
Mr Kim said the North would consider the "highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history" against the United States and that Mr Trump's comments had confirmed his nuclear programme was "the correct path".