US urges caution after North Korea renews nuclear-test threats


WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department called on North Korea to refrain from actions threatening regional peace after the government of Kim Jong Un renewed its threats to stage a nuclear weapons test.

The U.S. “remains steadfast in its commitment to the defense of its allies and continues to coordinate closely” with South Korea and Japan, and is “closely monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula,” State Department spokeswoman Pooja Jhunjhunwala said Saturday in an email.

North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the nation maintains a “resolute stand that it would take countermeasures including nuclear test to protect the sovereignty and dignity,” Reuters reported Saturday. The newspaper’s commentary was published by the government’s official Korean Central News Agency, according to Reuters.

“We continue to urge North Korea to refrain from actions that threaten regional peace and security and to comply with its international obligations and commitments,” Jhunjhunwala said.

North Korea carried out artillery drills near the western sea border with South Korea on April 29, according to South Korea’s defense ministry. Four days earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama said during a visit to Seoul that he would consider delaying the handover to South Korea of wartime command of that country’s forces, citing the growing threat of a nuclear-armed North.

Kim, 31, took power in December 2011 after his father Kim Jong Il died at age 70. In February 2013, his regime conducted the country’s third nuclear test.

Following the launches of dozens of rockets this year, including missiles banned under United Nations resolutions, North Korea said it could conduct a “new form” of nuclear test.