The Pentagon has condemned North Korean threats to target U.S. military bases, saying the United States is ready to respond to "any contingency."
Pentagon spokesman George Little called North Korea’s threats “bellicose rhetoric” that follows a “well-known pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others.”
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said that the country’s rockets are now targeting U.S. bases in Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland.
The government statement, which was read on North Korean state-run television, said the move was in response to what was described as threats by U.S. bombers.
"From this moment, the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army will be placing under Class A combat readiness all field artillery units, including long-range artillery units and strategic rocket units, that will target South Korea as well as all enemy objects at U.S. invasion bases on Hawaii and Guam," the statement said.
The United States and South Korea are conducting joint military exercises in the region until the end of April. Those exercises have included flights by U.S. B-52 bomber aircraft.
China's Foreign Ministry has called on all sides to exercise restraint.
The North Korean government’s latest threat comes days after the United States and South Korea signed an agreement for joint military action against even a small-scale North Korean attack.
North Korea's latest threats come on the third anniversary of the sinking of the South Korean naval ship "Cheonan." A South Korean investigation concluded it was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, something Pyongyang has always denied.
Before Pyongyang's threat, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Wee Yong-sub issued a warning in Seoul.
"If North Korea provokes again as they did in the past, our military will retaliate -- 1,000 times, or even 10,000 times -- to console the spirits of 46 heroes of the 'Cheonan' who died in defense of our country," Wee said.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye spoke at a ceremony at a national cemetery in Daejeon marking the anniversary of the "Cheonan’s" sinking. She called on Pyongyang to change course.
"North Korea should drop its nuclear weapons, missiles, provocations, and threats, and become a responsible member of the international society," Park said. "This is the only way the North can survive."
Nuclear-capable North Korea launched a satellite into orbit in December. But it is not thought to have a missile that can carry a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.
In February, Pyongyang exploded a nuclear device in its third nuclear weapons test, prompting the UN Security Council to impose tighter sanctions.
Earlier in March, the North announced it was abandoning the 60-year old armistice that brought an end to fighting in the Korean War.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters