NK threat-White House

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, March 7 (Yonhap) -- The White House said Thursday that the U.S. remains undaunted by North Korea's growing military threats, including a missile attack.

"Let's be clear: We are fully capable of dealing with that threat," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at a press briefing.

"I can tell you that the United States is fully capable of defending against any North Korean ballistic missile attack," he added, mentioning the U.S. military's recent success in testing an upgraded missile defense system.

North Korea has markedly intensified its threats of using military force against the U.S., even talking about a "preemptive nuclear strike," the scrapping of a 1953 armistice on the peninsula, and turning Washington into a sea of fire.

Pyongyang has been enraged by the U.N. Security Council's move to introduce new sanctions on it for a Feb. 12 nuclear test.

Carney said the unanimous adoption of the fresh resolution earlier in the day shows that the world stands united against Pyongyang's repeated provocations.

"The strength, breadth and severity of these sanctions show that the P-5 and the rest of the Security Council take seriously the North Korean threat," Carney said. "North Korea will now face, rather, new barriers to developing its banned nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

P-5 refers to the five permanent members, including China.

The State Department said the U.S. government remains firmly committed to the defense of not only the homeland but also its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan.

"Let's just start by saying that this kind of bellicose rhetoric from the DPRK (North Korea) is not surprising," department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. "It's not new."

Asked about whether Washington regards Pyongyang as just bluffing, Nuland tempered her tone.

"Obviously one has to take what any government says seriously," she said. "It's for that reason I repeat here that we are fully capable of defending the United States."

In Seoul, the top commander of the U.S. Forces Korea said the armistice that effectively ended the Korean War is crucial in maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula until a formal peace treaty is signed.

"For 60 years, the Armistice Agreement has ensured peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," Gen. James Thurman, who doubles as head the United Nations Command, said in a statement. "It concerns me when any signatory to a mutual agreement makes a public statement contrary to that agreement."

The UNC monitors the implementation of the armistice.

The Pentagon also said North Korea's threats will only further isolate it and undermine international efforts for peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

The United States is firmly committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea and to the maintenance of regional peace and stability,” said Cathy Wilkinson, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

She added the ongoing joint defense-oriented training exercises between the U.S. and South Korea are designed to increase alliance readiness to defend South Korea, protect the region and maintain stability on the peninsula.

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