State Dept: We Can Stop NKorea Nuke

QUESTION: I guess the most serious thing we could ever talk about is nuclear war, so why don’t we start with North Korea? How serious do you take the threats from Pyongyang? And what contacts have people in this building had, besides New York, with either the Chinese or your P-5 – your Six-Party partners?

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, let’s just start by saying that this kind of bellicose rhetoric from the DPRK is not surprising. It’s not new. This regime has regularly missed the opportunity to improve its relationship with the outside world. Let me just take this opportunity to say that the United States is fully capable of defending against a DPRK ballistic missile attack. Furthermore, we are continuing to upgrade our ballistic missile defense capabilities. We remain firmly committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan and the maintenance of regional peace and security.

With regard to consultations, as you know, and as announced by Ambassador Rice just a little while ago, we were very pleased to see the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2094 and the tough new sanctions that that imposes, and the fact that the international community was able to speak with one voice about these things.

QUESTION: Just – when you say that it’s not surprising, does that mean you take it to be more bluster than actual warning of any imminent plans from North Korea of military action?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, one has to take what any government says seriously. It’s for that reason that I repeat here that we are fully capable of defending the United States. But I would also say that this kind of extreme rhetoric has not been unusual for this regime, unfortunately.

QUESTION: But when you say, like, you’re fully capable of defending against a ballistic missile attack, that you’re boosting up your ballistic missile – it sounds as if you’re taking these threats seriously.

MS. NULAND: Well, you have to take a government at its word when it makes these kinds of threats, which is why we are making clear that we have not only full defensive capability for the United States, but that we’re prepared to defend our allies. But what’s really disappointing and unfortunate here is that this is a regime that’s been offered multiple opportunities, repeated opportunities, particularly in recent years, to come clean with the international community, to work with us, to come out of its isolation, and instead it remains committed to this kind of pattern.

QUESTION: Are you anticipating some kind of provocative action after this latest round of UN sanctions? I mean, it’s – if you look at North Korea’s patterns, it does seem as if they’ll take some kind of action to respond to some action at the UN.

MS. NULAND: Well, I’m not going to get into crystal balling what the DPRK regime might do in this case. I mean, they’ve been pretty hot in their rhetoric, as we’ve seen, and we need to be very clear about where we are, as we are today.

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