Administration Threatens to Isolate the Most Isolated Nation on Earth for 'Provocations'

The State Department didn't issue any statement on the artillery fire from Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived in Israel on Monday night in an effort to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into accepting a Mideast peace deal by the White House's April 29 deadline.

"Well, certainly we note with strong concern the DPRK’s deliberate decision to further escalate tensions on March 31st, as you noted, by firing more than 500 rounds of artillery near the Northern Limit Line," spokeswoman Marie Harf said at the State Department on Monday. "Several of those shells landed south of the Northern Limit Line. This provocative barrage follows a number of short-range and medium-range ballistic missile launches, threats to conduct a nuclear test, and other provocative statements that we’ve seen over the past several weeks."

"Once again, we call on the DPRK to cease and desist from needlessly threatening regional peace and security, and would note that these kind of provocations only strengthen the resolve of the international community and deepen Pyongyang’s isolation, which, of course, we’ve said now North Korea has a choice," she said. "They can choose to further escalate or they can choose to come in line with their international obligations and rejoin the international community. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen recently, particularly, is the former."

It wasn't even clear whether Kerry had been in touch with South Korea.

"We certainly speak with our South Korean counterparts quite a bit. I can check and see if we’ve spoken to someone, since I’m guessing we have," Harf said. "I’m just not positive."

At a House Armed Services Committee last week, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy M. Elaine Bunn told lawmakers that the Pentagon is fixed on increasing missile defense capability for threats including Pyongyang's.

"We currently have coverage of the U.S. homeland against potential ICBM attacks from states like North Korea and Iran. To ensure that we stay ahead of the threat, we're taking several steps to strengthen our homeland defense posture," Bunn said.

"We're deploying 14 additional interceptors in Alaska and a second missile defense radar to Japan, and requesting funding for the development of a radar that, when it's deployed in Alaska, will provide persistent sensor coverage and improved discrimination capabilities against threats to the homeland from North Korea."