— The Pentagon is warning North Korea to stop threatening to fire artillery at South Korea and U.S. bases in the Pacific. U.S. defense officials say U.S. forces are ready to respond to any aggression by the North.
North Korea’s statement said it is assigning rockets and long-range artillery to attack U.S. targets in places like Hawaii, Guam, and South Korea is rhetoric of the type that has been heard before. But Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters the Defense Department is taking the threats very seriously.
“North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and threats follow a well-worn pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others," said Little. "North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in Northeast Asia.”
Little said U.S. forces are ready to respond to any contingency.
As a signal to the North, Little said the U.S. flew a B-52 bomber over the Korean peninsula on Monday - the third such flight since March 8.
North Korea says it has assigned its rocket and long-range artillery units to strike U.S. bases on the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii, Guam and other points in the Pacific, as well as South Korea - saying the bases would be “reduced to ashes and flames.”
The threat from the North came as U.S. and South Korean forces have been carrying out annual routine joint exercises that are scheduled to continue through next month.
Officials of the two countries have also been working on an agreement that Little said will enable the South Korean military and U.S. Forces in Korea to respond quickly to a North Korean attack.
“We are moving forward to take new steps on combined command and control structure for the U.S.-ROK (S.Korea) alliance," said Little. "And this combined counter provocation plan is yet another instance in which our cooperation is growing even stronger and we are able to help enable the South Koreans with their potential responses to North Korean threats.”
Details of the plan are classified.
Pentagon officials also did not discuss intelligence on what kind of attack North Koreans may be prepared to launch.
Independent analysts said they do not believe the North is capable of striking Hawaii or the U.S. mainland with artillery, and they said Pyongyang has yet to develop a missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Soldiers of the Korean People's Army take part in the landing and anti-landing drills of KPA Large Combined Units 324 and 287 and KPA Navy Combined Unit 597 in the east coastal area in North Korea, March 25, 2013.
A North Korean soldier attends military training in an undisclosed location in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency, March 19, 2013.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un talks with generals as soldiers of the Korean People's Army take part in landing and anti-landing drills in eastern North Korea, March 25, 2013.
The North Korean shore as seen from South Korean island of Yeongpyeong.
North Korean soldiers attend military training in an undisclosed location in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency, March 19, 2013.
North Korea's artillery sub-units, whose mission is to strike Daeyeonpyeong island and Baengnyeong island of South Korea, conduct a live shell firing drill to examine war fighting capabilities in the western sector of the front line, March 14, 2013.
The air force and air defense artillery units of of the Korean People's Army conducts a drill of drone planes assaulting targets in a picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency, March 20, 2013.
Members of the United Nations Security Council vote to tighten sanctions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, March 7, 2013.
April 8, 2012: A soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, northwest of Pyongyang, North Korea.
North Koreans celebrate the successful launch of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket at Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang December 14, 2012. The sign reads: "Let's glorify dignity and honor of great people of Kim Il Sung and of Korea of Kim Jong Il in the world
Comparison of the UNHA-2 and UNHA-3 rocket flight paths