WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- The White House said Monday the U.S. military has "significant capability" to defend itself, apparently reiterating a willingness to shoot down a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile if it comes toward the country or allies.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest made the warning, referring to the comment that Defense Secretary Ash Cater made on Sunday that the U.S. will "shoot it down" if a North Korean ICBM "were coming towards our territory or the territory of our friends and allies."
"You also heard from the secretary of defense, Ash Carter, over the weekend indicate that the United States military retains significant capability to protect the United States our allies, and we're prepared to use that capability when necessary," Earnest said.
Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's Day address that the country has reached the final stage of preparation to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The remark was a thinly veiled threat that Pyongyang is close to developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the continental U.S., after five underground nuclear blasts and a series of ballistic missile or rocket launches over the past decade.
On Sunday, the North's Foreign Ministry doubled-down on Kim's threat, saying the country will test-fire an ICBM at a time and from a place determined by leader Kim.
"The Obama administration and the United States and, I think, the international community takes seriously and is concerned about the destabilizing rhetoric, sometimes destabilizing actions that are undertaken by the regime in North Korea," Earnest said.
"And, that's why you've seen the United States lead an international response to mobilize the international community to impose the toughest ever sanctions that have ever been imposed on North Korea because of our concern about their rhetoric and their actions," he said.