PENTAGON - 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.