The U.S. is fully capable of defending itself against a North Korean ballistic missile attack, the White House said Thursday, after Pyongyang threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the United States.
The threat from the North Koreans came ahead of a unanimous vote in the U.N. Security Council approving its toughest sanctions yet on the North in response to an atomic test last month.
North Korea has escalated its bellicose statements this week as the tightening of U.N. sanctions loomed. It has also threatened to scrap the cease-fire that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
"I can tell you that the United States is fully capable of defending against any North Korean ballistic missile attack," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
North Korea has now conducted three nuclear tests. In the past year, it has made strides toward its goal of having a nuclear weapon that could threaten the U.S. although experts doubt it yet has the capability to hit the U.S. with a ballistic missile or miniaturize a nuclear device to mount on such a missile.