Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - The White House said Thursday that the United States is fully capable of defending against a North Korean ballistic missile strike.
Earlier Thursday, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously for new sanctions against North Korea, which carried out a third nuclear test Feb. 12. Pyongyang threatened a nuclear strike against the United States.
"The United States is fully capable of defending against any North Korean ballistic missile attack," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
North Korea is prepared to "exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors," and Washington is "set to light a fuse for a nuclear war," according to a statement from a Foreign Ministry spokesman carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
Carney said the rogue regime "will achieve nothing by threats or provocations."
Shortly after Kim Jong Un was elevated to succeed his father as ruler of North Korea, U.S. negotiators reached an understanding with Pyongyang that was announced Feb. 12, 2012.
The North Koreans agreed to suspend their uranium enrichment program and allow U.N. inspectors back in the country, moves that gave the United States and other allies a sliver of hope that six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program could be revived.
Sixteen days after the deal was reached, North Korea announced it would launch a satellite attached to a rocket into space, compelling condemnation from the Obama administration and international community. The launch was carried out April 13, 2012, and the North Koreans carried out a subsequent long-range missile launch Dec. 12, 2012.
The situation reached a new low last month when North Korea conducted its latest nuclear activity.
"Pyongyang's Feb. 12 announcement of a third nuclear test ... and its subsequent threats to conduct even more follow-on measures are only the latest in a long line of reminders that [North Korea's] nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and proliferation activities pose serious threats to U.S. national security, to regional security in the Asia-Pacific and to the global non-proliferation regime," Glyn Davies, the State Department's special representative for North Korea policy, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.