TODAY   |  March 30, 2013

White House reacts to North Korea’s declaration of war

“We take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our allies in South Korea,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the National Security Council. The response comes as leader Kim Jong Un declared a “state of war” on South Korea. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> kristen welker is at the white house with reaction this morning from the obama administration. what are you hearing at this point from the white house ?

>> reporter: well, erica , good morning. behind the scenes certainly officials are alarmed by this latest provocation but are also trying to reassure the allies in the region. this is a statement that was just released by a spokesperson. she says, quote, we've seen reports of a new and unconstructive statement from north korea . we take these threats seriously and remain in close contact with our south korean allies, but we would also note that north korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today's announcement follows that familiar pattern. so again, u.s. officials really trying to reassure allies in the region. top officials have been in contact with their counterparts there. part of why this is so disconcerting is because it follows a series of provocations from north korea , including a number of nuclear tests, a missile launch, and also, of course, north korea called an end to the 1953 armistice with south korea . defense secretary chuck hagel saying that the latest provocations are disconcerting. they are quite concerned, monitoring the situation quite closely this morning, erica part of what is so disconcerting to many is of course kim jong un. not a lot known about this leader. how much does the obama administration know about him and how much power he really has?

>> well, erica , you have touched on what is really one of the top concerns for this administration. kim jong un took over in december of 2011 . he was in his late 20s at the time, not a lot known about him then, not a whole lot known about him now. i can tell you that u.s. officials were hoping that this new, young leader would help to lead his country out of its current state of isolationism, rampant poverty, and that is not the case. in fact, the opposite seems to be the case. he seems to be more bellicose and more unstable and unpredictable than his father. that is one of the chief concerns for this administration moving closely.

>> kristen welker at the white