US will ‘protect our allies’ from North Korean aggression, Kirby says

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The U.S. is prepared to ensure the safety of its East Asian allies in the event of North Korean aggression, according to the National Security Council.

NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby addressed the issue with journalists at a Friday press conference at the White House.

“We are going to do what we have to do to make sure we can protect the U.S. . . . protect our allies and partners,” Kirby said.

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John Kirby White House

John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House, speaks at the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C.  (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

“The president has devoted more capabilities into the region and has worked really hard with our counterparts in Japan and South Korea, particularly on trilateral cooperation to be able to defend ourselves,” he added.

North Korea conducted its first flight test of a new cruise missile, it said Thursday, as dictator Kim Jong Un looks to expand his military capabilities amid a deepening rift with South Korea and the United States.

According to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, the launch of the Pulhwasal-3-31 missile did not pose a threat to neighbors as it is still in its development phase. The outlet said the missile could eventually carry nuclear weapons.

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Television showing North Korea missiles

A TV screen shows a report of North Korea’s cruise missiles with file footage during a news program displayed at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea’s military says that North Korea fired several cruise missiles into waters off its western coast, adding to a provocative run of weapons demonstrations in the face of deepening nuclear tensions with the United States, South Korea and Japan.  (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

“We know that the North Koreans continue to pursue advanced capabilities, including ballistic missile capabilities,” Kirby told the press at the White House. “And they want to achieve long-range outcomes.”

However, the U.S. has denied any real and direct military threat to the nation’s interests and allies in East Asia.

“While we are not seeing indications of a direct military threat at this time, we continue to monitor for the risk of DPRK military action against the ROK and Japan, in close consultation with our ROK and Japanese allies,” a U.S. official familiar with the situation told South Korean outlet Yonhap News Agency.

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Kim Jong Un

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the 19th expanded political bureau meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, which was held from January 23 to 24, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (KCNA via REUTERS    )

“DPRK” is an abbreviation for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North Korean nation’s official name. “ROK” stands for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

Tensions in the region have increased in recent months as Kim continues to accelerate his weapons development and provocative threats to the U.S. and its Asian allies. In response, the United States, South Korea and Japan have been continuing their combined military exercises, which Kim condemns.

Fox News Digital’s Lawrence Richard contributed to this report.

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