"South Korea has been living under such threats from the past, and we are always prepared for it," South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told CNN Wednesday. He called the current climate "a very ordinary situation."
South urges dialogue over industrial zone
The difficulties at the Kaesong industrial zone, a key symbol of inter-Korean cooperation, are among the few tangible signs of the tensions.
Pyongyang repeated a threat to permanently close the industrial zone, which it jointly operates with the South, accusing South Korean President Park Geun-hye of putting the manufacturing complex at risk.
The South Korean government, meanwhile, urged Pyongyang to work to resolve the situation through dialogue.
"Pyongyang should come to the bargaining table immediately," Ryoo said.
North Korea has pulled its more than 50,000 workers out of the complex, which is on the northern side of the heavily fortified border that divides the two Koreas, and blocked personnel and supply trucks from entering it from South Korea.
In a statement reported Thursday by state-run media, the North Korean government said that what happens at the complex in the coming days "entirely depends on the attitude of the South Korean authorities."
U.S. intelligence cites direct threats
The dangers posed by North Korea came up Thursday at a separate House Intelligence Committee hearing about worldwide threats.
Clapper said the United States believes the primary objective of Kim's bellicose rhetoric is to "consolidate and affirm his power" and to show he is "in control of North Korea."
Clapper said he doesn't think Kim "has much of an endgame" other than to get recognition from the world as a nuclear power which "entitles him to negotiation, accommodation and, presumably, aid."
But in a statement for the record before the committee, Clapper reiterated that the nation's "nuclear weapons and missile programs pose a serious threat to the United States and to the security environment in East Asia."
Since December, North Korea has put a satellite in orbit atop a long-range rocket; conducted a nuclear bomb test, its third since 2006; and claimed to be prepared for pre-emptive nuclear attacks on the United States, though most analysts believe it does not yet have that capability.
Its most recent nuclear test, in February, resulted in tougher U.N. sanctions, which infuriated Pyongyang, prompting it to sharpen its threats.
Annual military exercises in South Korea by U.S. and South Korean troops, which often upset the North, have added to the tensions, especially when the United States drew attention to shows of strength such as a practice mission by B-2 stealth bombers.