US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says in case of a military conflict between the United States and North Korea the latter risks "the destruction of its people.”
"The DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons," Mattis said in a statement on Wednesday.
"The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people,” he warned.
The Pentagon chief's comments came a day after President Donald Trump threatened to hit the country “with fire and fury.”
In response to Trump’s apocalyptic warning, North Korea said it was "carefully examining" a plan to strike the American Pacific territory of Guam with missiles.
The North Korean military said it could carry out a pre-emptive strike if there were signs of an American provocation.
Mattis said that the United States and “our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from an attack.”
He went on to say that the US and its allies have "the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth."
"The DPRK regime's actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates," he said.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that North Korea crossed a major threshold by successfully producing “nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery."
The newspaper said two US officials familiar with the intelligence assessment verified broad conclusions of analysis.
'Trump’s bombastic rhetoric is not appropriate'
Several US politicians have denounced Trump's intensifying rhetoric on North Korea.
"Trump’s bombastic rhetoric is not appropriate when we are dealing with the possibility of a nuclear war that could kill millions of people," Senator Bernie Sanders, the former Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted on Wednesday.
"We need serious people at the @StateDept dealing with the issue of North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons & missile capability,” the Vermont senator stated.
He advised the Trump administration to work with China and other allies to develop a "comprehensive diplomatic strategy to address the problem."
On Tuesday, Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to former President Barack Obama denounced Trump's warning to North Korea, saying it could "only be interpreted" as a nuclear threat.
North Korea carried out two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles last month. Pyongyang claimed that its latest missile, test-fired on July 4, can deliver a "large, heavy nuclear warhead" to the US continent.
US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on Saturday the United States is preparing for all options, including a “preemptive war,” to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
McMaster said President Trump has been very clear that the US will not tolerate “North Korea being able to threaten the United States.”
North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea. Thousands of US soldiers are stationed in South Korea and Japan.