White House concerned over North Korean threats
Anti-war activists wearing masks hold placards showing the Korean Peninsula during a protest against a joint military exercise between South Korea and the U.S., called Key Resolve, near the U.S. embassy in Seoul on March 11, 2013. / Getty
WASHINGTON President Barack Obama's spokesman said Monday that the White House is concerned by war threats coming from North Korea, as the administration issued sanctions against a North Korean bank and official.
The remarks came in response to North Korean state media reports that Pyongyang was cancelling the 60-year-old armistice that ended the Korean War.
Threats will only "further isolate" North Korea, Carney says
"We are certainly concerned by North Korea's bellicose rhetoric," Obama spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at the White House. "And the threats that they have been making follow a pattern designed to raise tension and intimidate others. The DPRK will achieve nothing by threats or provocation, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in northeast Asia."
The Treasury Department announced Monday that it was designating North Korea's primary exchange bank, the Foreign Trade Bank, as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. The department said the bank is used for transactions linked to the proliferation network.
Treasury also made the same designation, against Paek Se-Bong, the chairman of North Korea's Second Economic Committee, which oversees production of North Korea's ballistic missiles. The designation freezes any assets in the U.S. and prohibits transactions with Americans.
Obama National Security adviser Tom Donilon told a meeting of the Asia Society in New York that Pyongyang's claims may be "hyperbolic." He said the United States will protect its allies.
"There should be no doubt: we will draw upon the full range of our capabilities to protect against, and to respond to, the threat posed to us and to our allies by North Korea," Donilon said in remarks prepared for delivery distributed by the White House. "This includes not only any North Korean use of weapons of mass destruction but also, as the President made clear, their transfer of nuclear weapons or nuclear materials to other states or non-state entities. Such actions would be considered a grave threat to the United States and our allies and we will hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences."
Donilon also said Obama will meet with newly inaugurated South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the White House in May.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said current U.S.-South Korea military exercises - that North Korea views as a provocation - are conducted annually and are defense-orientated. She said North Korea had been notified beforehand.
- North Korea reportedly nullifies armistice
- U.N. approves new sanctions against North Korea
- N. Korea warns of "preemptive nuclear attack" against U.S.
- North Korea vows to cancel Korean War cease-fire
South Korea and the United States began annual the military drills Monday despite North Korean threats to respond by voiding the armistice that ended the Korean War and launching a nuclear attack on the U.S.
After the start of the drills, South Korean officials said their northern counterparts didn't answer two calls on a hotline between the sides, apparently following through on an earlier vow to cut the communication channel because of the drills.
Japanese media were citing a story in the Monday edition of North Korea's ruling party newspaper as saying the armistice is no longer in effect.
Anti-war demonstrators turned out near the U.S. Embassy in the South Korean capital of Seoul to protest the start of the drills.
Pyongyang had launched a bombast-filled propaganda campaign against the drills, which involve 10,000 South Korean and about 3,000 American troops, and against last week's U.N. vote to impose new sanctions over the North's Feb. 12 nuclear test. Analysts believe much of that campaign is meant to shore up loyalty among citizens and the military for North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong Un.
Pyongyang isn't believed to be able to build a warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, and the North's military has repeatedly vowed in the past to scrap the 1953 armistice. North Korea wants a formal peace treaty, security guarantees and other concessions, as well as the removal of 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.
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