(LEAD) U.S. remains committed to defense of S. Korea, engagement with N. Korea: State Dept.
(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks from the department spokesperson, more information in last 6 paras)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, July 28 (Yonhap) -- The United States remains firmly committed to the defense of South Korea, a state department spokesperson said Thursday, hours after North Korea warned South Korea that it may face "annihilation."
Ned Price said the U.S. also remains open to engaging in dialogue with Pyongyang, but that the reclusive regime continues to remain unresponsive to U.S. overtures.
"We have a vital interest in deterring the DPRK, defending against provocation or use of force, limiting the reach of the most dangerous weapons programs and, above all, keeping the American people, our deployed forces in the region and our allies safe from any threat to international peace and security," the state department press secretary told a daily press briefing, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"And to that end, we continue to consult closely with Japan, with the ROK and with partners throughout the broader Indo-Pacific region and beyond," he added.
ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.
The remarks come after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the South Korean government and its military will be "annihilated" should they make any "dangerous attempt," namely a preemptive strike.
Price dismissed the rather strongly-worded threat as nothing new.
"The comments we heard in recent hours are not categorically different from what we've heard from the DPRK regimes over the course of recent months and in recent years," the department spokesperson said, adding the U.S. will not respond to Kim's comments, reported by the North's official Korean Central News Agency on Thursday (Seoul time).
"I think it is fair to say that the DPRK also wouldn't be surprised to hear the same message from us, and that is our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan, a commitment that remains ironclad," said Price.
Price reiterated U.S. commitment to engaging with North Korea, but said Pyongyang continues to ignore U.S. outreach.
"We are not, unfortunately, in a markedly different place than we have been in for quite some time," the department spokesperson said when asked about the prospects of dialogue with Pyongyang.
"Now, of course, we have not heard a substantive response or certainly any indication that the DPRK, at present, is seeking to take us up on that offer, but in the interim, we'll continue to coordinate closely with our treaty allies and we'll continue to impose costs and consequences should provocations continue to emanate from the DPRK," he added.
North Korea has fired more than 30 ballistic missiles this year, marking the largest number of ballistic missile launches in a single year, according to U.S. officials.
Officials here and in Seoul have also hinted at the possibility of a North Korean nuclear test in the near future, noting the country appears to have completed "all preparations" for a test.
Pyongyang conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in September 2017.
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