North Korea has ordered its artillery to adopt a
combat posture aimed at US targets, state media in Pyongyang said
All strategic rocket units and long-range artillery were to be put on top-level alert and to be directed against targets on the US mainland, Hawaii and Guam, where the United States has a military base, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also visited front-line troops on Monday, KCNA reported separately.
North Korea has developed nuclear devices, but is not thought to have long-range delivery capability.
The isolated regime has issued several recent threats against the South and Seoul's ally, the United States, who started joint military drills around the peninsula this month.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell reiterated Tuesday in Washington that the US is "fully capable" of defending itself and its allies against any attack by North Korea.
Both Ventrell and White House spokesman Jay Carney called the order issued Tuesday "bellicose rhetoric" and said the threats would only further isolate the country and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in the region.
Carney also said North Korea's actions follow a pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others. The threats and provocations Pyongyang has been sending "will only further isolate North Korea Northeast Asia," he said.
The United States continues to urge the North Korean leadership to heed President Barack Obama's call to choose the path of peace and comply with its obligations, Carney added.
Tensions have been high on the Korean Peninsula since North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February, which was followed by a tightening of international sanctions against Pyongyang.
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