US President Barack Obama warned North Korea to end its "belligerent approach" after discussions with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Meanwhile, US officials have dismissed fresh Pentagon reports on nuclear rockets.
US and South Korean defense officials have dismissed a Pentagon intelligence agency report which claimed that North Korea likely already had a nuclear bomb that could be launched on a missile.
The assessment had been revealed at a congressional hearing on Thursday and said the agency had "moderate confidence" that North Korea possessed nuclear weapons that could be fitted onto ballistic missiles.
The report also said any such North Korean missile would probably be unreliable, but it was the first time such an evaluation has been made public.
US President Barack Obama, who spoke alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after talks in the White House Thursday, said, "Nobody wants to see a conflict on the Korean Peninsula," but that the US is ready to take necessary measures to defend itself.
"We both agree that now is the time for North Korea to end the belligerent approach they have taken and to try to lower temperatures," Obama told reporters.
"It's important for North Korea, like every other country in the world, to observe basic rules and norms," he said, adding that Washington would "continue to try to work to resolve some of those issues diplomatically.”
G8 condemns Pyongyang
Earlier Thursday, Group of Eight foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States had condemned North Korea's nuclear activities .
In a statement issued at the close of talks the G8 ministers condemned "in the strongest possible terms the continued development of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, including its uranium enrichment."
The ministers said North Korea was acting in "direct violation" of four UN Security Council resolutions, saying the country should refrain from "further provocative acts" or risk further sanctions.
The statement said they were ready to "take further significant measures in the event of a further launch or nuclear test by the DPRK."
The meeting came a day after South Korea raised its "Watchcon" alert from 3 to 2, which reflects perceived indications of a "vital threat," in response to alleged rocket deployments in the North. On Thursday, South Korean state-funded broadcaster KBS quoted military officials as saying that North Korea could test launch several missiles imminently and simultaneously.
According to the South's Yonhap news agency, military satellite pictures indicated that five mobile launchers had been positioned in North Korea's eastern province of South Hamkyung.
The UN imposed further sanctions against Pyongyang following its third nuclear test in February. Joint US-South Korean military exercises last month prompted North Korea to issue a string of threats.
hc,rg/ch (Reuters, AFP, AP)