PYONGYANG, North Korea —
President Barack Obama warned the unpredictable communist regime that his administration would “take all necessary steps” to protect American citizens.
In his first public comments since North Korea escalated its rhetoric, Obama urged the north to end its nuclear threats, saying it was time for the isolated nation “to end the belligerent approach they have taken and to try to lower temperatures.”
“Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula,” Obama added, speaking from the Oval Office alongside United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was headed to Seoul on Friday for talks with South Korean officials before heading on to China.
“If anyone has real leverage over the North Koreans, it is China,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress on Thursday. “And the indications that we have are that China is itself rather frustrated with the behavior and the belligerent rhetoric of ... Kim Jong Un.”
In the latest threat from Pyongyang, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a nonmilitary agency that deals with relations with South Korea, said “striking means” have been “put on standby for a launch and the coordinates of targets put into the warheads.” It didn’t clarify, but the language suggested a missile.
The statement was the latest in a torrent of warlike threats seen outside Pyongyang as an effort to raise fears and pressure Seoul and Washington into changing their North Korea policies, and to show the North Korean people that their young leader is strong enough to stand up to powerful foes.
Referring to Kim Jong Un, Clapper told Congress that “I don’t think ... he has much of an endgame other than to somehow elicit recognition,” and to turn the nuclear threat into “negotiation and to accommodation and presumably for aid.”