The White House gave vague warnings to behave to North Korea today after Pyongyang announced it had taken steps forward in expanding the “quality and quantity” of its nuclear weapons.
“All the nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, including the uranium enrichment plant and five megawatt reactor were rearranged, changed or readjusted and they started normal operation,” reported the official Korean Central News Agency.
The director of the North’s Atomic Energy Institute was cited by KCNA as saying, “If the U.S. and other hostile forces persistently pursue their reckless hostile policy towards the DPRK, we are fully prepared to respond with nuclear weapons at any time.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that the administration is “aware of the reporting that indicates the readjustment and operation of the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, including the fie megawatt plutonium reactor and the uranium enrichment facility at Pyongyang.”
“We will repeat our call that North Korea should refrain from irresponsible provocation that aggravate regional tensions. It should focus instead of fulfilling its international obligations and commitments,” Earnest said.
He added that the “position of the United States and this a position that is shared by countries around the world, including significant players in the region that we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state, and that’s why we urge North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten regional peace and security.”
“And focus instead on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments and we will work with our partners in the context of the six party talks to try to return North Korea to a posture to fulfilling those commitments that they’ve made in the context of those conversations.”
Pressed on how seriously the administration takes North Korea’s threats to nuke us, Earnest replied, “Well again, I think that the — we’re certainly aware of the actions that North Korea has taken and you know, I don’t have a specific reaction to those actions other than saying that North Korea should refrain from irresponsible provocation that serve only to aggravate regional tensions.”
At the Pentagon today, spokesman Peter Cook wouldn’t comment on whether the U.S. could intercept a ballistic missile heading toward Hawaii, Guam or Japan.
“We’ve seen recent provocative statements. We think those are only heightened tensions, we call on Pyongyang to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten regional peace and stability and security in the area. And the department continues to urge North Korea to refrain from irresponsible actions that aggregate tensions and violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, which we believe that the — that this particular launch, for example, would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution,” Cook said.
Asked if there were indications North Korea is on the verge of a launch or test, he replied, “I’m not going to talk about intelligence from this podium.”
State Department press secretary John Kirby didn’t have anything to give reporters today on conversations with regional partners about the latest threat.
“Obviously, we routinely talk about the threats and challenges posed by North Korea with our friends and partners in the region,” Kirby said. “But I don’t have anything specific with respect to this.”