By K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen, CNN
The Obama administration on Wednesday slammed North Korea's pugnacious rants toward South Korea and the West and a U.S. intelligence official called the strident remarks worrisome.
"The ratcheting up of rhetoric is of concern to us," the official said.
The question is whether this is "just rhetoric," he said. Or, "are things happening behind the scenes indicating the blustering has something to it."
Another U.S. official said there is a lot of uncertainty about North Korea's intentions.
By Elise Labott and Barbara Starr
North Korea's nuclear test Tuesday set off a diplomatic scramble for America's new secretary of state as the U.S. national security community began working with other countries to try to determine what North Korea truly achieved.
The test was was not a total surprise, senior administration officials said. North Korea warned the United States and China on Monday that it would be undertaking a nuclear test, two senior administration officials told CNN. The warning came in the form of a message through the "NY channel," which is the U.S. mission to the United Nations, North Korea's typical method for passing messages to the United States. The warning was not specific on timing, but the officials said Washington took it to mean the test could happen at any moment.
After the test was detected late Monday night, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with South Korea's foreign minister. He's also expected to talk with the foreign ministers for China, Japan and Russia. The United States began coordinating its own response with inter-agency calls between Washington and Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow and Beijing. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim and Gen. James Thurman, commander of the US-Republic of Korea Combined Forces Command, met with the South Korean defense minister.
The U.S. intelligence community and military began the process of assessing the test and North Korea's claims and by morning concluded an underground nuclear test had probably been conducted.
By Jethro Mullen
North Korea's plans for a new nuclear test, like most things that happen inside the reclusive state, are shrouded in mystery. But that's not stopping analysts and officials from making some informed guesses about what's going on.
Why is North Korea planning to conduct a nuclear test?
The North says the "higher level" test is part of its military deterrent in its confrontation with the United States, which it describes as "the sworn enemy of the Korean people."
Its declaration that it would carry out the test came just two days after the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of imposing broader sanctions on the regime in response to Pyongyang's long-range rocket launch in December that was widely viewed as a test of ballistic missile technology.
The pattern of events is similar to the lead-up to the previous nuclear tests North Korea carried out in 2006 and 2009.FULL STORY
By K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen
North Korea said Thursday that it plans to carry out a new nuclear test and further long-range rocket launches, all of which it said are a part of a new phase of confrontation with the United States.
The North's National Defense Commission said the moves would feed into an "upcoming all-out action" that would target the United States, "the sworn enemy of the Korean people."
Carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, the defense commission statement followed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Tuesday that condemned North Korea's recent rocket launch and expanded existing sanctions.FULL STORY
The most senior Syrian diplomat to defect and publicly embrace his country's uprising is calling for a foreign military intervention to topple president Bashar al-Assad.
Nawaf al Fares spokes to CNN's Ivan Watson in Doha, Qatar. Fares also accused the Damascus regime of collaborating with al Qaeda militants against opponents both in Syria and in neighboring Iraq.
Here's a transcript of the interview: FULL POST
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations warned that should the current plan fail in Syria, the world is facing a 'worst case scenario' of intensifying civil strife.
Ambassador Susan Rice told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that that there needs to be "maximum international pressure" on Syria's president by the United Nations Security Council "including sanctions and potentially other steps."
"Should all of that fail or not be possible because it perhaps would be vetoed again, then we're into a situation which is chaotic," Rice said in the interview that aired Wednesday on Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.
By Jamie Crawford
With the situation in Syria seemingly deteriorating by the day, the United States is doing what it can to pressure Bashar al-Assad to step aside, but that goal is nowhere in sight, a senior administration official said Wednesday.
"As it relates to what Plan B is for Syria, we're still on Plan A," Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough said at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. The event was sponsored by the Brookings Institution.
Following a massacre in the Syrian village of Houla this past weekend that left scores of children and villagers dead, McDonough said the United States continues to support the joint United Nations/Arab League plan, led by Kofi Annan, which is deploying monitors into Syria.
But McDonough acknowledged that simply putting monitors in Syria is not going to stop the carnage.
By Larry Shaughnessy
After weeks of military analysts examining the latest North Korean rocket before and after its failed launch, the focus now has turned to a truck.
It's not just any truck. It's known as a "transporter, erector, launcher," TEL for short, and is designed to move a long-range missile into place, stand it upright and launch it from just about anywhere in North Korea. The truck was spotted in a military parade in Pyongyang last weekend with what experts say is a new long-range rocket on board.
The United Nations is investigating if the TEL came from China in violation of U.N. resolutions, a U.S. official tells CNN. The U.N. Security Council committee that monitors implementation of the sanctions on North Korea is investigating, the official said. The investigation was first reported by Jane's Defense Weekly.
By Jill Dougherty
North Korea's so-called "Leap Day" agreement with the United States to suspend its nuclear-weapon and long-range missile testing was dead in the water even before the North's dud rocket splashed into the ocean last week.
Tuesday Pyongyang made it official, blaming Washington for "hatching all sorts of dastardly tricks to prevent the peaceful nature of the (Democratic People's Republic of Korea's) satellite launch from being confirmed objectively" and imposing on the U.N. Security Council "its brigandish demand that the DPRK should not be allowed to launch even a satellite for peaceful purposes."
"We have thus become able to take necessary retaliatory measures, free from the agreement," the government news agency KCNA announced, quoting the Foreign Ministry. "The U.S. will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences."
Now, U.S. officials are waiting for the other shoe to drop: Will North Korea break the other part of that agreement and carry out a nuclear test?
"That," a senior administration official told CNN, "is the 64-thousand-dollar question."
Kofi Annan, the United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria, told the U.N. Security Council that he was "gravely concerned at the course of events" in the crisis-ridden Middle East nation, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad failed to withdraw troops from cities and towns by Tuesday's deadline. (For the latest Syria developments click here)
In a letter, Annan said the Syrian government should have used the days ahead of the deadline to send a "powerful political signal of peace."
Annan wrote the letter as Syrian troops pounded cities across the nation, opposition activists said. Annan said he was not giving up on the peace plan he brokered, but the fresh violence as the deadline came and went blighted hopes for success.
Here's the text of his letter: FULL POST