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(LEAD) U.S. urges N.K. to refrain from provocative statements after Pyongyang's nuclear threats

All Headlines 05:47 March 05, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with White House briefing)

WASHINGTON, March 4 (Yonhap) -- The United States urged North Korea on Friday to refrain from "provocative actions and statements" after Pyongyang's young leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered the military to get ready to use nuclear weapons at a "moment's notice."

Kim issued the order while attending the North's test-firing Thursday of a new multiple launch rocket system, stressing that the current situation has become "very precarious," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"The kind of comments and provocative actions that we've seen out of Pyongyang in the last 36 hours or so are not new," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a regular briefing, referring to the North's testing of the new rocket system and Kim's nuclear threats.

"We continue to urge the North Korean regime to refrain from provocative actions and statements that tend to aggravate tensions. Instead, we believe that they should focus on fulfilling their international obligations and commitments, particularly when it relates to their nuclear program," he said.

The North's nuclear strike threats and the test-firing of the new multiple launch rocket system came after the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted the harshest-ever sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile tests.

They are believed to be a message to the outside world that the communist nation remains unfazed by the new sanctions and will forge ahead with its nuclear and missile programs.

Earnest said the U.S. has taken a series of steps to bolster its defenses and those of its allies "in the face of threats that emanate from North Korea," such as deploying ballistic missile defense systems to the Asia-Pacific region and to Alaska.

"We certainly take very seriously the responsibilities that we have to protect the security of our allies Japan and South Korea," he said. "We're going to continue to monitor the situation closely and we're going to continue to call upon the North Korean government to avoid destabilizing actions and other provocations that tend to rattle an already jittery region of the world."

jschang@yna.co.kr
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