ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE -- The White House says North Korean threats to train rocket fire on the U.S. only deepen the country's isolation from the world.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned Friday that his rocket forces were ready, quote, "to settle accounts with the U.S." The threat came after nuclear-capable American B-2 bombers dropped dummy munitions during routine joint military drills with South Korea.
In response, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the United States has both the capability and willingness to defend its interests in the region.
He called on North Korea to put its people first by ending its, quote, "bellicose rhetoric," abandoning its nuclear program and living up to its international obligations. Earnest spoke to reporters as President Barack Obama flew to Florida for an event.
Across North Korea, soldiers are gearing up for battle and shrouding their jeeps and vans with camouflage netting. Newly painted signboards and posters call for "death to the U.S. imperialists" and urge the people to fight with "arms, not words." But even as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is issuing midnight battle cries to his generals to ready their rockets, he and his million-man army know full well that a successful missile strike on U.S. targets would be suicide for the outnumbered, out-powered North Korean regime.
Despite the hastening drumbeat of warfare, none of the key players in the region wants or expects another Korean War -- not even the North Koreans.
But by seemingly bringing the region to the very brink of conflict with threats and provocations, Pyongyang is aiming to draw attention to the tenuousness of the armistice designed to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula, a truce North Korea recently announced it would no longer honor as it warned that war could break out at any time.
It's all part of a plan to force Washington to the negotiating table, pressure the new president in Seoul to change policy on North Korea, and build unity at home -- without triggering a full-blown war if all goes well.