U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a tough statement aimed at North Korea, says the United States has significant deterrent capability to thwart Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
Secretary Rice discussed North Korea's nuclear program the day after Pyongyang apparently launched a short-range missile, which landed in the Sea of Japan.
In reassuring South Korea, Japan and other U.S. allies in the Pacific, Ms. Rice pointed out the United States has a robust military capability in the region. "We have, after all, a very strong alliance with South Korea and a very strong alliance with Japan. Of course, the United States maintains significant, and I want to underline significant, deterrent capability of all kinds in the Asia-Pacific region," she said. "So I don't think there should be any doubt about our ability to deter whatever the North Koreans are up to. But that doesn't mean that it is not a serious problem and that the North Koreans should not come back to the six-party talks because all of their neighbors consider this to be a problem. This is not just between the United States and North Korea."
Pyongyang announced earlier this year it was dropping out of six-nation talks on its nuclear weapons program
Last week the head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Navy Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, told a Senate committee he believes North Korea has the capability to arm a missile with a nuclear device, with a range that could reach the United States.
U.S. intelligence officials believe North Korea has had a nuclear weapons capability since the 1990s and may have added to its arsenal after it expelled nuclear inspectors and withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003.