The United States takes North Korea’s latest threats to strike targets on the US mainland, Hawaii and Guam “very seriously,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said on Tuesday.
“We are concerned by any threat raised by the North Koreans. We take everything they say and everything they do very seriously. They need to stop threatening peace – that doesn’t help anyone,” Little told reporters.
Pyongyang’s military put its “strategic” rocket units on a war footing on Tuesday, threatening South Korea as well as US targets. The military said units should be ready to attack “all US military bases in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Little rejected what he called the North’s “bellicose rhetoric,” saying it followed a “well-known pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others.”
“North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to achieve peace and stability in northeast Asia,” the spokesman said.
“We stand ready to respond to any contingency.”
The North’s military move came as South Korea marked the third anniversary of the sinking of its naval vessel “Cheonan” by what Seoul insists was a North Korean submarine.
Pyongyang has steadfastly denied involvement in the incident, which left 46 South Korean sailors dead, but a few months later, it launched an artillery attack on a South Korean border island, killing four people.
Military tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been at an elevated level for months, following December’s rocket launch and the North’s third nuclear test which it carried out last month.
Both events triggered UN sanctions that infuriated the North, which has spent the past month issuing increasingly threatening statements about unleashing an “all-out war” backed by nuclear weapons.
Ten days ago, the United States said it would bolster its defences against a possible North Korean missile strike, increasing by almost half the 30 interceptors already deployed along the California and Alaska coastlines.
The aim is to have them in place by 2017.
“The decision to place additional ground-based interceptors in Alaska is really in large measure to growing North Korean threats and the development of their own missile programs. It’s very clear,” Little said on Tuesday.
“Let me be very clear that we stand ready to meet our obligations to defend the United States, South Korea and our alliance.”