U.S. ready for ‘decisive’ action against N.K., but focusing on diplomacy: Dunford

SEOUL-- The United States is ready to make a "decisive" response to North Korea's possible attack near its territory of Guam, but its focus in dealing with the recalcitrant regime is placed on diplomatic efforts and economic pressure, its top military officer said Monday.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the U.S. is seeking a peaceful resolution to the North Korea's nuclear and missile issue, according to a pool report.

"Our job is to make sure our leadership has an option available to them," Dunford told a group of reporters. "I believe there are two things we are clear about: One, our responsibility to defend against attack, two, our requirement to make sure we have a decisive response in the event of attack."

"We are capable of defending them (American and Korean people) right now, against limited attacks and certainly are prepared to be strong in case of deterrent fails," he added.

Dunford arrived in South Korea on Sunday for a two-day visit, the first leg of his tour to Asia which also includes stops in Japan and China.

His remark came amid a flurry of exchanges of bellicose rhetoric between the U.S. President Donald Trump and the Pyongyang government after it launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July. The U.N. Security Council adopted a fresh U.S.-led sanctions resolution on the North in early August.

North Korea's military said last week that it will finalize a plan by mid-August to launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles near the U.S. Pacific island of Guam, home to key American air and naval bases.

Trump said that the North will meet "fire and fury" should it continue to threaten the U.S. He also warned that military solutions are "in place, locked and loaded."

There are concerns here that any miscalculation may trigger an armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula. But key U.S. officials dismissed the possibility of an imminent war with North Korea.

Earlier in the day, Dunford met with President Moon Jae-in and said military options will come only after sanctions fail.

Dunford told reporters he did not discuss adjusting the two-week joint military drill between Seoul and Washington slated for late August.

North Korea has claimed that the exercises are rehearsals for a northern invasion, despite reassurance by Seoul and Washington that they are defensive in nature.

"These exercises are in developing our operability, developing our readiness and forces here in the Korean Peninsula, in case of deterrent fails, but we did not have the conversation here," he said.

The chairman stressed the role of China in applying sanctions and pressure for Pyongyang's denuclearization.

"One of the real purpose of my China trip...is military-to-military relations that will result in mitigating the risks of miscalculations and making sure that we have the ability to communicate in a crisis that is an important thing," he said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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