(ATTN: UPDATES with Ri's remarks in paras 1-6; CHANGES headline)
NEW YORK, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho slammed U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday, saying his threat to destroy the nation amounted to "the sound of a dog barking."
Ri arrived in New York earlier in the day to attend the U.N. General Assembly.
Speaking to reporters in front of his hotel, he issued the regime's first response to Trump's threat a day earlier to "totally destroy" North Korea if it poses a direct threat to the U.S. or its allies.
"If he was thinking he could scare us with the sound of a dog barking, that's really a dog dream," Ri said, referencing a North Korean proverb that a procession moves even if dogs bark. In Korean, a dog dream is one that is absurd and makes little sense.
Asked to comment on "Rocket Man," Trump's new nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he said, "I feel sorry for his aides."
Ri flew into JFK International Airport from Beijing and was escorted out by Pyongyang's ambassador to the U.N., Ja Song-nam. His visit comes amid growing pressure on the regime to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The minister is scheduled to address the global gathering on Friday and meet with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday.
North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 and recently launched a series of ballistic missiles, including two over Japan.
Last week the U.N. Security Council adopted its ninth set of sanctions against Pyongyang, capping the country's oil imports for the first time.
Media attention is likely to focus on the possibility of a Washington-Pyongyang meeting during Ri's stay, although few expect there to be serious discussions at a time of heightened tension between the countries.
North Korea has sent its foreign minister to the annual event every year since 2014.
It has used the forum to defend and tout its nuclear and missile programs and heap criticism on the U.S., which it claims has hostile intentions toward the regime.
Ri is scheduled to return home early next week, according to sources.
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