Dunford: US-South Korean Alliance Ready to Defend Against North Korean Threat

The intense rhetoric on both sides has raised fears of a miscalculation leading to catastrophic consequences- Pyongyang has vast artillery forces deployed within range of Seoul where millions of people live

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday in Washington that it will be "game on" with North Korea if it hits the United States, including Guam, but he left it much more ambiguous what will happen if Pyongyang decides to shoot missiles near Guam, without trying to actually hit the USA island territory.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to seek Seoul's approval before pursuing any option against nuclear-armed North Korea.

When North Korea on Thursday repeated a threat against Guam, saying it was working on a plan to launch missiles into the waters near the USA territory, Roh Jae-cheon, spokesman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared on TV to declare that Seoul and Washington were prepared to "immediately and sternly punish" any provocation by the North.

In response to Trump's dire warnings, North Korea said it was "carefully examining" a plan to strike the American Pacific territory of Guam with missiles.

Lobbing missiles toward Guam would be a deeply provocative act from the USA perspective, and a miscalculation on either side could lead to a military clash.

Guterres said that on Tuesday he told representatives of the countries in the stalled six-party talks - North Korea, South Korea, the U.S., Russia, China and Japan - that his "good offices are always available".

The US' top military official has landed in South Korea ahead of talks with the country's leader and US military amid rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.

China, North Korea's main ally and trading partner, has repeatedly urged Pyongyang to halt its weapons programme and at the same time urged South Korea and the USA to stop military drills in order to lower tensions.

"The people worked together to rebuild the country from the Korean War, and we can not lose everything again because of a war", President Moon Jae-in said in a nationally televised news conference, translated by The Associated Press. "They may continue launching missile tests but they don't want a war, and the USA doesn't want military action either". This might be hard as the United States and South Korea prepare for their military drills next week.

In a meeting with Moon on Monday, Dunford reiterated the US's commitment to protect South Korea.

North Korea sees joint South Korea-US military drills as a preparation for war. Without question, North Korean nuclear and missile issues must be resolved peacefully in any event.

"Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned decision", Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Beijing has grown increasingly exasperated with its wayward neighbour, but fears instability and the prospect of USA troops on its border in a united Korea.

North Korea first tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 and its most recent test was September 2016.

'We don't feel they've reached that point yet but it's true they are approaching it.

The North's latest report said Kim ordered his military to be prepared to launch the missiles toward Guam at any time.

"If North Korea launches another provocation, it will face even stronger sanctions and it will not be able to survive them".

Relations between the two were "an absolute fail", it added, saying that while Moon spoke of dialogue and implementing North-South agreements, his actions moved in the opposite direction.

Describing the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's nuclear and missile programs as the biggest challenge, Moon said South Korea should play a leading role in the peninsula issue.

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