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(2nd LD) N. Korea's ballistic missiles constitute a threat to U.S.: State Dept.

All News 05:28 October 13, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks from Pentagon Press Secretary, more information in paras 10-12; ADDS more photo)
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose a threat to the U.S. and its allies, a State Department spokesperson said Tuesday.

The remark comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un claimed North Korea's enemy is not South Korea nor the U.S. while calling for efforts to further advance the North's military capabilities.

"The DPRK's WMD and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to international peace and security and the global nonproliferation regime," a State Department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency in an email.

"The United States has a vital interest in deterring the DPRK, defending against its provocations or uses of force, and in limiting the reach of its most dangerous weapons programs, and above all keeping the American people and our allies safe," the official added, asking not to be identified.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

North Korea has consistently accused the U.S. of having a hostile policy against its regime, while also arguing that regular joint military exercises between South Korean and U.S. forces are war-rehearsals.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a defense development exhibition, Self-Defence-2021, in Pyongyang on Oct. 11, 2021, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The North Korean leader reiterated such an accusation this week.

"The United States has been frequently signaling that it's not hostile to our country, but there has been no behavioral ground to believe that it is not," Kim said at a defense development exhibition held Monday, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"Our enemy is war itself, not a certain country or forces like South Korea and the U.S.," Kim was quoted as saying, adding that North Korea needs to "first be strong."

John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense, said U.S. troops in South Korea help ensure a "sense of stability and security."

"We are going to continue to make sure that our alliance with the Republic of Korea remains as ironclad and as strong as it is, and that our South Korean allies, likewise, have the capabilities they need to defend themselves if needed," the Pentagon spokesman said when asked to comment on Kim's recent remarks, in which the North Korean leader also called for efforts to bolster the North's military capabilities to counter what he called hostile forces.

"Our presence on the peninsula, our presence in the region is about maintaining a sense of stability and security," Kirby added.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby seen answering questions during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on Oct. 12, 2021 in this image captured from the website of the defense department. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The State Department spokesperson said the U.S. remains open to engaging with Pyongyang in dialogue.

"The United States harbors no hostile intent toward the DPRK. We are prepared to meet with the DPRK without preconditions and engage in serious and sustained diplomacy. We hope the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach," said the official.

The U.S. had offered the same response when North Korea staged a series of short-range missile tests last month that it claims included the test launch of a new "hypersonic" missile.

North Korea, however, remains unresponsive to American overtures, while it has also stayed away from any meaningful talks with the U.S. since early 2019.

"Our policy calls for a calibrated, practical approach that seeks serious and sustained diplomacy with the DPRK to make tangible progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies, and our deployed forces," the State Department spokesperson added.


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