WASHINGTON -- The White House said on Saturday that it takes North Korea's latest saber-rattling threats seriously while cautioning that Pyongyang has a long history of bellicose rhetoric.
North Korea's latest bout of angry rhetoric included a vow that it is entering a "state of war" with South Korea a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed off on an order putting its missile units on standby to attack U.S. military bases in the South.
"We've seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from North Korea. We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our South Korean allies," said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.
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"But, we would also note that North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today's announcement follows that familiar pattern," she said.
Rhetoric or not, North Korea has taken a series of steps that have escalated tensions with its southern neighor and the United States.
In February, North Korea conducted an underground nuclear bomb test. It also has launched several missile tests, including one last year that went awry. Subsequent tests have been successful and North Korea also has claimed to have developed a missile that can hit the U.S. mainland.
On Friday, North Korean released a photograph of leader Kim Jong Un reviewing plans to attack U.S. targets, including Washington D.C., Los Angeles -- and, oddly, Austin, Texas.
North Korea also has cut off its "hotline" with South Korea and on Saturday threatened to shut down a border factory complex that's the last major symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.
The escalating tensions have captured attentions worldwide.
Mongolia called for six-party talks to be resumed after North Korea's “state of war” declaration.
“Mongolia would like to extend its relationship with North Korea,” Prime Minister Norovyn Altankhuyag said at a press conference in Ulaanbaatar with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. “Mongolia can contribute if they initiate any meetings.”
Six-party talks have continued, on and off, for years between South Korea, North Korea, China, the U.S., Russia and Japan. Mongolia has maintained good relations with North Korea for decades.
Moscow on Saturday urged restraint in the Korean peninsular. Russia warned that the heightened military activity was slipping into a "vicious cycle" that could get out of control.
"We hope that all parties will exercise maximum responsibility and restraint and no one will cross the point of no return," senior Russian Foreign Ministry official Grigory Logvinov told Interfax news agency.
The United States flew two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula as part of a military exercise this week in a show of force to reassure U.S. allies in the region.
The Pentagon has also been beefing up U.S. missile defense capabilities on the West Coast. The United States has been stressing that it has the capability and willingness to protect itself and U.S. allies in the region.
"We remain fully prepared and capable of defending and protecting the United States and our allies," said Hayden. "We continue to take additional measures against the North Korean threat, including our plan to increase the U.S. ground-based interceptors and early warning and tracking radar," and the recent signing of a South Korean-U.S. counter-provocation plan.
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