WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's spokesman said Monday that the White House is concerned by war threats coming from North Korea, as the administration issued sanctions against a North Korean bank and official.
The remarks came in response to North Korean state media reports that Pyongyang was cancelling the 60-year-old armistice that ended the Korean War.
"We are certainly concerned by North Korea's bellicose rhetoric," Obama spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at the White House. "And the threats that they have been making follow a pattern designed to raise tension and intimidate others. The DPRK will achieve nothing by threats or provocation, which will only further isolate North Korea and undermine international efforts to ensure peace and stability in northeast Asia."
The Treasury Department announced Monday that it was designating North Korea's primary exchange bank, the Foreign Trade Bank, as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. The department said the bank is used for transactions linked to the proliferation network.
Treasury also made the same designation, against Paek Se-Bong, the chairman of North Korea's Second Economic Committee, which oversees production of North Korea's ballistic missiles. The designation freezes any assets in the U.S. and prohibits transactions with Americans.
Obama National Security adviser Tom Donilon told a meeting of the Asia Society in New York that Pyongyang's claims may be "hyperbolic." He said the United States will protect its allies.
"There should be no doubt: we will draw upon the full range of our capabilities to protect against, and to respond to, the threat posed to us and to our allies by North Korea," Donilon said in remarks prepared for delivery distributed by the White House. "This includes not only any North Korean use of weapons of mass destruction but also, as the President made clear, their transfer of nuclear weapons or nuclear materials to other states or non-state entities. Such actions would be considered a grave threat to the United States and our allies and we will hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences."
Donilon also said Obama will meet with newly inaugurated South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the White House in May.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said current U.S.-South Korea military exercises — that North Korea views as a provocation — are conducted annually and are defense-orientated. She said North Korea had been notified beforehand.
Associated Press writers Matthew Pennington and Bradley Klapper contributed to this report.